Today's Birthday 12/1

William Ton
Jeff Bezos showed his entrepreneurial side in high school, forming a centre for creative thinking

Today's Birthday, January 12: US businessman Jeff Bezos (1964 - )

In his latest stand-off with his employees, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has urged Silicon Valley tech companies to not bow to pressure from "activist" employees against doing business with the US military.

"It's the senior leadership's team to say to people: 'Look, I understand these are emotional issues, that's OK and we don't have to agree on everything, but this is how we're going to do it. We are going to support the Department of Defence'," Bezos said.

"This country is important."

Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His parents divorced a year after getting married before his mother remarried a Cuban immigrant.

The Amazon billionaire first showed his entrepreneurial side in high school, developing the Dream Institute, a centre promoting creative thinking in fourth to sixth grade students.

He displayed an interest in computers and a knack in building electrical contraptions in his early years. The high school valedictorian later studied computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton University.

Bezos worked in the finance sector after graduating, but decided to quit his job in 1994 and move to Seattle and set up an online bookstore from his garage with a handful of employees in the untapped internet market sector.

Despite being a risky venture, Amazon sold its first book in July 1995. It soon became a market leader, resulting in Bezos diversifying his online bookstore to sell CDs and videos in 1998 followed by clothes and electronics.

In 2006, the company launched its video-on-demand service, initially called Unbox on TiVo, now Amazon Prime Video. Amazon Studios followed in 2013, producing critically acclaimed TV shows before expanding to feature films in 2015.

From earning $US510,000 in 1995 to taking in $US17 billion a year in 2011, Amazon.com became only the second $1 trillion valued company after Apple.

However Bezos' success has been coloured with controversy such as the treatment of Amazon warehouse workers who claim they are subjected to gruelling conditions. In 2019 they staged a worldwide protest on Amazon Prime Day - a shopping event for Prime members - demanding better working conditions.

Bezos was named the world's wealthiest person in 2018 and 2019. His estimated net worth is $US110 billion.

The Amazon founder is now in a relationship with US television presenter Lauren Sanchez after divorcing his wife of 25 years and mother of his four children, MacKenzie Bezos in 2019.