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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went on a $3 billion stock selling spree

Alison Griswold
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, wearing sunglasses.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, sold roughly $2.8 billion worth of Amazon stock last week, securities filings show.

Amazon’s founder and CEO sold 1.5 million shares in the company from July 29 to Aug. 2, at a pace of about 200,000 to 320,000 shares per day. As he sold the stock, Amazon’s share price fell about 6% over the course of last week. Amazon slipped another 3% yesterday, alongside a broader drop in the market after Donald Trump accused China of currency manipulation.

Bezos didn’t sell anywhere near that much in 2018, topping out at a sale of about 40,000 securities on Nov. 28. The greatest number of shares he’s ever sold on a single day was about 1.85 million on Feb. 15, 2008, but of course Amazon is worth much more now. That sale in 2008 netted Bezos about $135 million, at a price of $73 a share. To cash out an equivalent amount today, Bezos would have to sell only about 7,600 shares.

Although he has sold fewer shares recently, the transactions have generated far more cash for Bezos than before:

It’s unclear what plans Bezos has for his stock sales, and Amazon declined to comment to CNBC. One possibility is that Bezos is selling his sales to finance his space business, Blue Origin. Bezos said in 2017 that his “business model” for the company was to sell $1 billion worth of Amazon stock each year to fund it. Last year, Bezos reiterated that $1 billion-a-year commitment, telling Business Insider, “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel.” (Asked about any guilty spending pleasures, Bezos mentioned an “amazing trip” to celebrate the birthday of recently ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos. Plans change!)

Another possibility is that Bezos will put some of that cash toward the Bezos Day One Fund, the charitable venture he announced in September 2018. Or, maybe he just needs cash to pay the bills. Bezos spent about $80 million on three apartment units on New York City’s Fifth Avenue in June, the Wall Street Journal reported. Meanwhile, his divorce from MacKenzie, finalized in early July, shaved $38 billion off his personal fortune. That was enough to make her one of the richest women in the world, without threatening the Amazon CEO’s position at the top of the rich list, with a fortune currently valued at around $110 billion.

 

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