Jeff Bezos announced on February 2nd that he’d be leaving the CEO job at Amazon. In the announcement, he signaled he’d be pursuing his “other passions,” which include the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, and The Washington Post. Well, it’s nice to have hobbies!
The real pressing question, though, is what Bezos is going to do with all that money. Forbes pegs his net worth around $193.2 billion as of the close of trading on February 8th, though it’s possible it’s gone up since this writing. That’s more money than most people’s brains can process! For instance, last year, Bezos’ ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, gave away $4 billion in four months — and her net worth is only a paltry $60 billion by comparison.
Anyway, here are some suggestions of how Bezos can spend his money, in case he is too busy with his other commitments to come up with ideas on his own. In all cases, I have rounded down, leaving Bezos with at least a hundred million dollars to live out his own life — I don’t expect him to be uncomfortable.
Pay for Jared and Ivanka’s Secret Service bathrooms ($3,000 per month) for 5 million years
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were protected by the Secret Service, but according to The Washington Post, the couple would not allow the agents to use any of the six bathrooms inside their home. (The Trump administration denied this.) Instead, the agents struggled to find a place to relieve themselves. Finally, in 2017, they settled on renting a studio apartment for its bathroom at $3,000 a month.
If Bezos is feeling civic-minded, he could pay for Secret Service agents to use that bathroom for 5 million years — well after Kushner and Trump will be around to require protection.
Buy 1,932 diamond-bedazzled ($100 million) Damien Hirst skulls
In 2007, artist Damien Hirst hit the headlines with For the Love of God, a model of an 18th century European man’s skull that was swathed in 8,601 diamonds. Oh, and those teeth? Those are the originals, from the dead guy.
Think of the options: you could create For the Love of For the Love of God, a giant skull made up of that piece replicated almost 2,000 times. Just in case Bezos wants an art project.
Buy 64,400 Bugatti Chirons ($3 million each)
The Bugatti Chiron, a $3 million car, is the kind of thing car people geek out about: “With fluid curves and angrily squinting headlights, this coupe’s exterior design communicates power and performance, and its standard 1500-hp engine endows it with acceleration capabilities worthy of a bullet train,” writes Car and Driver, dreamily.
Anyway, with 64,900 of them, you could assemble your very own Gundam out of Bugattis and then have some cars left over to do demolition derby with. A Bugatti demolition derby is kind of badass now that I’m thinking about it.
Buy Larry Ellison’s private island ($300 million) 644 times
Okay, listen, pretty much any millionaire can afford a private island — here’s one for sale in Nova Scotia that costs $65,000 — but Larry Ellison’s island, Lanai, is special. (He owns 98 percent of it.) For starters, it’s Hawaiian, which means a more salubrious climate than Nova Scotia. It has everything! An art collection worth millions, a resort hotel that’s been featured on Secret Lives of the Super Rich, a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus that hosted Bill Gates’ wedding…
Bezos could theoretically buy it hundreds of times over, but obviously, there’s only one such island! So he could also buy just about every other island that’s worth more than $50 million on FindYourIsland.com. He could corner the market on islands. I don’t think anyone’s ever done that before.
Build 19 James Webb Space Telescopes ($10 billion)
The James Webb Space Telescope, like the now-beloved Hubble before it, is taking longer than expected and is also way over budget at $10 billion. (Originally, it was projected to cost $1 billion and launch in 2007. It is not yet in orbit.) For starters, there’s a 25-foot golden mirror — but that’s not all. A bunch of the technology the telescope needed had to be specifically created for the telescope! Ordinarily, one invents technology first, and then uses it, but I’m basically fine with NASA throwing money at scientists to solve weird problems under almost any circumstances.
Now, the other 18 James Webb Telescopes would be cheaper than the first one since they could use the tech created for the first one instead of starting from scratch. But think of what you could do with a constellation of space telescopes! Not only could we get better at spotting exoplanets, but we could spot something we’ve never seen before. We know Bezos is enthusiastic about space — why else would Blue Origin exist? — but this would bring basic science to the next level. And he could send the telescopes up there himself using his own space company.
Plus, as a bonus, it would make SpaceX’s Starlink look like child’s play.
Buy Martin Shkreli’s Wu-Tang Album ($2 million) 96,600 times
There are a lot of reasons why people hate Martin Shkreli — jacking up the price of rare disease drugs, jacking up the price of a malaria drug, refusing to answer any questions except the one about his name when brought before Congress, securities fraud — but perhaps the most infuriating is he’s the owner of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, a Wu-Tang Clan album that has only one copy. (Apparently, Cher makes an appearance on it!)
Shkreli paid about $2 million for the album, according to Bloomberg. In that 2015 story, Shkreli toyed with the idea of having artists make more private albums for him. Bezos could actually do this nearly a hundred thousand times. He could create an entire private Beyoncé catalog! Now that’s what I call music.
Buy almost 20 percent of America’s F-35 program (1 trillion)
Look, this is just a hunch, but usually space people also really like planes. And learning how to fly is absolutely a Silicon Valley obsession. But does anyone have a private fleet of F-35s? No, that’s some nation-state shit.
Think about the decals you could put on the planes. Think of the stunts.
But you’ll notice that even though Bezos has nation-state wealth — his personal fortune ranks between the 2019 GDP of New Zealand at $206 billion and Kazakhstan at $181 billion, according to World Bank data — it pales beside what the US is willing to budget for war.
Buy 23 percent of Tesla (market cap $818 billion, as of Feb. 8th’s close)
To err is human; to troll is divine. Bezos and Elon Musk have a long-standing rivalry, and they keep trading places as the two richest people alive. One way to settle who’s the richest for all time is just to take a major stake in the other guy’s company. Not only is this very funny, but it allows for an activist shareholder shakeup, Carl Icahn-style.
This is some God-level finance stunting: petty, funny, nasty. Michael Lewis would absolutely get a book deal about it. We already know that Bezos is the absolute fucking Death Star — maybe he’s thought of this one himself.
End hunger in the US ($25 billion) seven times
Look, we love to have fun here on TheVerge.com, but this one’s serious. If he wanted to, Bezos could simply end hunger in the United States.
In 2016, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, estimated that ending hunger in the country would cost $25 billion. His solution is increased wages and social safety net programs. Sure, the US government could do this, but it would be a tremendous flex to just do it yourself. Besides, isn’t the whole idea of Silicon Valley libertarians that it’s better for private donors to do this than the government? Okay — prove it.
What’s more, since it would cost only about one-seventh of Bezos’ wealth, he could just continue being very rich. Only now he would be very rich and widely beloved. And perhaps he could write it all off on his taxes!
Buy 9.6 billion doses ($2 billion for 100 million) of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
Hey, Jeff Bezos and his 4.8 billion closest friends — the vaccine requires two doses — could get immunized! In fact, conveniently, that vaccinates almost two-thirds of the planet.
Imagine: an Amazon Prime TV show where a masked Bezos shows up at someone’s front door. Surprise! You won! You’re getting vaccinated. (Maybe Bezos even administers the first shot himself.) I mean, he probably won’t do all 4.8 billion personally, but some of these people probably have compelling backstories for reality TV. Maybe the episode follows them after their second dose to see how their lives have changed. Phenomenal television.
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Illustrations by Alex Castro, Grayson Blackmon, & William Joel / The Verge