Jeff Bezos is finally stepping up his philanthropy.
The Amazon founder and fourth-richest person in the world sat down with CNN to reveal his intention to give away the majority of his $124 billion fortune. But the announcement was overshadowed by news the same day that Amazon is planning to layoff around 10,000 workers as soon as this week, the largest cuts in the company’s history.
The report in the New York Times said the restructuring will focus on Amazon’s devices organization, including the voice-assistant Alexa, as well as at its retail division and in human resources, as fears of a recession grow and online spending normalizes after pandemic lockdowns. Amazon experienced its most successful period ever in the last two years, and doubled its workforce over that time.
Tech at large has been hit by big layoffs. Meta is planning to slash 11,000 jobs, and Elon Musk promptly cut half of Twitter’s workers, or about 3,700 people, after he acquired the social media platform.
Although Bezos stepped away from directly managing Amazon in 2021, handing over the reins to current CEO Andy Jassy, Bezos remains executive chairman, and his public persona remains very much intertwined with the company.
Bezos has long been criticized for not signing the “Giving Pledge”, a pact many of the world’s richest signed agreeing to give most of their wealth away, and for his high-profile space travel pursuits with his company Blue Origin.
In contrast, ex-wife Mackenzie Scott, who gained $38.3 billion worth of Amazon stock in the couple’s 2019 divorce settlement, quickly jumped into charitable giving, setting a new pace of philanthropic donations. In March, her foundation said she had donated $12 billion, and an update on the same day as Bezos’ latest announcement said she had since donated a further $2 billion in the last seven months, bringing the total to $14 billion.
Although Bezos did not provide many specifics, he said he wanted his wealth to go to fighting climate change and supporting people who can unify humanity in the face of deep social and political divisions. Bezos’ giving includes a $100 million award to singer Dolly Parton, known for her own charitable giving towards developing the Moderna vaccine, to donate to causes of her choice.