Jeff Bezos for the first time said he will give most of his money to charity

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos plans to give away the majority of his $124 billion net worth during his lifetime, telling CNN in an exclusive interview that he will dedicate most of his wealth to fighting climate change and supporting people who can unite humanity in the face of the deep. social and political division.

Although Bezos’ vow was light on specifics, this marks the first time he’s announced he’s giving away much of his money. Critics have chided Bezos for not signing on Take the Oathpledge by hundreds of the world’s richest people to donate most of their wealth to charitable causes.

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In a sit-down interview with CNN’s Chloe Melas on Saturday at his Washington, DC home, Bezos, speaking with his partner, journalist-turned-philanthropist Lauren Sánchez, said the couple was “building the capacity to be able to give this money.”

Asked directly by CNN if he would donate the majority of his wealth during his lifetime, Bezos said: “Yes, I do.”

Bezos said he and Sánchez agreed to do their first interview since they started dating in 2019 to help shine a light on the Bezos Courage and Civility Award, which was given this year to musician Dolly Parton.

The 20-minute exchange with Bezos and Sánchez covered a range of topics, from Bezos’ views on political dialogue and possible economic recession to Sánchez’s plan for visit outer space with an all-female body and her reflections on the flourishing business partnership with Bezos.

That working relationship was on display Saturday as Bezos and Sánchez announced a $100 million grant to Parton as part of her Courage and Civility Award. This is the third such award, after a similar grant to chef Jose Andrés, who has spent some money to make food for Ukrainians – and climate advocates and CNN contributor Van Jones.

“When you think of Dolly,” said Sánchez in an interview, “Look, everyone’s smiling, right? She’s just beaming with light. And all she wants to do is bring light to other people’s worlds. So we can’t think of anyone better than gave this award to Dolly, and we know she’s going to do amazing things with it.

The central line connecting Courage and Civility Award recipients, Bezos said, is their capacity to bring many people together to solve big challenges.

“I’m just honored to be a part of what they’re doing for this world,” Bezos told CNN.

Unity, Bezos says, is a trait needed to confront climate change and one he has repeatedly invoked as he blasts politicians and social media for exacerbating divisions.

But the biggest challenge for the couple is how to distribute Bezos’ fortune. Bezos declined to identify a specific percentage or provide concrete details on where it would be spent.

Despite being the fourth-wealthiest person in the world, according to Bloomberg Billionaires IndexBezos has refrained from setting a target amount to give away in his life.

Bezos has committed $10 billion over 10 years, or about 8% of his current net worth, to the Bezos Earth Fund, which is chaired by Sánchez. Among his priorities is to reduce the carbon footprint of construction-grade cement and steel; encourage financial regulators to consider climate-related risks; promote data and mapping technologies to monitor carbon emissions; and build natural, plant-based carbon sinks on a large scale.

Whereas Bezos now owns Amazon

executive chair and not its CEO – he is stepping down from that role in 2021 – he is still involved in the greening of the company. Amazon is one of more than 300 companies that have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint by 2040 based on the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement, Bezos said, although Amazon

footprint grows by 18% in 2021, reflecting the e-commerce boom fueled by the pandemic. Amazon’s

calculating its own influence in the climate mirrors its outsized impact on everything from the debate about unionization to antitrust policy, where the company has attracted a very high level of scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers, and civil society groups.

Bezos compared his philanthropic strategy to his efforts over the years to build the titanic machine of e-commerce and cloud computing that made him one of the most powerful people in the world.

“The difficult part is how to do it in a leveraged way,” he said, pointing out that even if he gave away his billions, he was still looking to maximize his return. “It’s not easy. Building Amazon isn’t easy. It takes hard work, a lot of smart teammates, hard-working teammates, and I find – and I think Lauren finds the same thing – that charity, philanthropy, is very similar.

“There are ways that I think you can also do things that are not effective,” he added. “So you have to think about it carefully and you have to have brilliant people in the team.”

Bezos’ methodical approach to giving stands in stark contrast to that of his ex-wife, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who recently giving nearly $4 billion to 465 organizations in the span of less than a year.

As Bezos and Sánchez lay out their plans for Bezos’s vast wealth, many more modest people are feeling what economists fear could be a prolonged economic downturn.

Last month, Bezos tweeted warning to his followers on Twitter, suggesting that they “batten down the hatches”.

The advice is intended for business owners and consumers alike, Bezos said in an interview, suggesting that people should consider buying big-ticket items they see — or companies should slow acquisitions and capital expenditures.

“Take some risk off the table,” Bezos said. “Keep dry powder on hand…. Just a little bit of risk reduction can make a difference to those small businesses, if we have more serious economic problems. You have to play the probability a little bit. ”

Many may be feeling the pinch now, he added, but noted that as an optimist he believes the American Dream “is and will be more attainable in the future” – pointing out that in Bezos’ age, space travel is widely accessible. general

Sánchez said the couple have been “very good teammates,” though he laughs, “We can be boring,” Sánchez said. Bezos smiled and replied, “Never get bored.”

Sánchez, founder of Black Ops Aviation, the first female-owned and operated film and aerial production company is a trained helicopter pilot. He said in an interview that they both took turns in the driver’s seat.

Bezos has been credited own journey to outer space to help inspire his push to combat climate change. Now it’s Sánchez’s turn.

Sánchez told CNN that he hopes to venture into orbit alone in 2023. And while he did not immediately say who would join him – quickly excluding Bezos as a crewmate – he said simply: “It will be a great group of women. ”

Bezos can add NFL owner to his resume. CNN recently reported that Bezos and Jay-Z are talking about the potential bid together in Commander Washington.

It’s unclear if they have spoken with Dan Snyder and his wife Tanya, the current NFL team owner, about that possibility.

But during an interview on Saturday, Melas asked Bezos if the speculation was true.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that buzz,” Bezos said with a laugh.

Sánchez snapped with a smile, “I love football. I’m going to throw it to everyone.”

Bezos added, “I grew up in Houston, Texas, and I played football as a kid … and it was my favorite sport …

— CNN’s Chloe Melas contributed to this report

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