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THE PRIME OF JEFF BEZOS

AS HIS EMPIRE GALLOPS, JEFF BEZOS TIPTOES INTO PUBLIC VIEW

“THE CLOUDS surrounding Amazon.com are thickening,” began the Washington Post article by David Streitfeld on February 21, 2001. In the previous year, stockholders had suddenly learned that the internet was not immune to the boom-and-bust cycles of more earthbound forms of economic endeavor, and it seemed the Seattle-based bookseller was going to go the way of Pets.com, the most infamous example of late 1990s cyberhubris. Streitfeld noted that one detractor of Amazon “expects the Internet retailer to run out of money to adequately fund its operations later this year.”

Amazon did not run out of money—nor was it subsumed into a bigger competitor like Wal-Mart—but it wasn’t until 2003 that it ended a year with a profit. That milestone led The Wall Street Journal to call it “one of the most powerful survivors on the Internet.”

Today, the question is not whether Amazon can survive but whether we can survive without Amazon. It is in the pantheon of corporations we need more than we need most federal agencies. Just as you can search for updates on Drake’s romantic life on Bing instead of Google or post updates about your own romantic life on Ello instead of Facebook, you can buy beef jerky in bulk on Overstock instead of Amazon. But why would you? Entirely credible reasons exist to dislike Amazon: its treatment of workers, its alleged evasion of taxes, a tendency toward monopoly. But you can’t escape it. The company is lodged deep into our culture, a complex creature that engenders equally complex emotions, much like turkey bacon and the Kardashians.

About 12 years after The Washington Post reported on his presumed misfortunes, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought that newspaper from the Graham family for $250 million. Some believe the purchase was evidence of his affection for the institution, evidence too of an affection for the free press long held in abeyance. Critics think Bezos intends to use the newspaper as a public relations firm on Capitol Hill. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, for one, is convinced that Bezos will deploy tMhe Post in the service of Amazon’s tax-evasion schemes. Some people much smarter than Trump believe this too.

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The Prime of Jeff Bezos - As his empire gallops, Jeff Bezos tiptoes into public view. Prime Suspect - Nobody likes to pay taxes, but few people are as adept at avoiding them as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The IRS thinks he’s been a little too good.
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