Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to give away most of his $124 billion fortune - with $100 million already donated to Dolly Parton

14 November 2022, 12:05 | Updated: 14 November 2022, 13:02

Jeff Bezos has already given $100 million to Dolly Parton
Jeff Bezos has already given $100 million to Dolly Parton. Picture: CNN/Getty

By Kit Heren

Jeff Bezos will give away most of his $124 billion fortune during his lifetime, the Amazon founder has said.

Mr Bezos said that he wanted to use his money to support people who can heal social and political divisions and unify humanity.

He added that he was "building the capacity to be able to give away this money” in an interview with CNN.

It comes after he and his partner Lauren Sanchez announced a $100 million grant to country music legend Dolly Parton, to pass onto charities of her choice.

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Mr Bezos, the world's fourth-richest man, has previously come under fire for not signing the Giving Pledge, a promise by many of the world’s richest people to give the majority of their wealth to charity.

He was also criticised in the wake of this announcement for the wages and working conditions of Amazon warehouse and delivery workers.

Asked by CNN if he plans to give away most of his fortune during his lifetime, Mr Bezos said "Yeah, I do.”

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Mr Bezos, who stepped down from the CEO role at Amazon in 2021 to become executive chairman, compared the charity giveaway to building the e-commerce giant.

"The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a levered way,” he said.

Dolly Parton has been given $100 by Jeff Bezos
Dolly Parton has been given $100 by Jeff Bezos. Picture: Getty

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“It’s not easy. Building Amazon was not easy. It took a lot of hard work, a bunch of very smart teammates, hard-working teammates, and I’m finding — and I think Lauren is finding the same thing — that charity, philanthropy, is very similar.”

Jeff Bezos in 2019
Jeff Bezos in 2019. Picture: Getty

“There are a bunch of ways that I think you could do ineffective things, too,” he added. “So you have to think about it carefully and you have to have brilliant people on the team."

Asked about his donation to Ms Parton through his Courage and Civility award, he said: "Look at what she's done, and how she's lived her life - and the way she's done it, these bold things, always with civility and kindness - she's a unifier."

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Ms Sanchez said: "When you think of Dolly, everyone smiles. All she wants to do is bring light into other people’s world. 

"That’s all, and so we couldn’t have thought of someone better than to give this award to."

Mr Bezos plans to give away most of his wealth
Mr Bezos plans to give away most of his wealth. Picture: Getty

But Mr Bezos' donation was not well-received across the board.

Steve Garelick, a senior organiser for the GMB union, said: "So Amazon can give to charity but not change HR methods or increase wages... It is always a wonder when 'Philanthropists' make donations based upon their workers toil."

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Mr Bezos' Bezos Earth Fund promised $1bn by 2030 to help protect carbon reserves and biodiversity, it was announced at the start of Cop27 last week.

Mr Bezos is not the only tech billionaire who wants to give away his fortune to charity.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said in July that he would be giving away another $20 billion to his Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, to which has already donated $50 billion since 1994.

He said: “I have an obligation to return my resources to society in ways that have the greatest impact for reducing suffering and improving lives. And I hope others in positions of great wealth and privilege will step up in this moment too.”

Mr Gates said that he wanted to give most of his $113 billion fortune to charity.

His foundations aims to tackle disease, poverty, climate change and access to healthcare and education.