Amazon is required to collect the tax only in states where it maintains a physical presence, such as a warehouse. But Amazon now is supporting the bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. State sales taxes no longer pose a real threat to Amazon; with an emphasis on same-day shipping, the company is building distribution warehouses across the country and would have to pay the tax anyway.
Like Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham, Bezos has shown support for efforts to change education policy, including the creation and expansion of public charter schools.
The Bezos Family Foundation — whose board includes Bezos, his parents and other family members — gave more than $11 million in 2011 to an array of national organizations such as Teach for America, Stand for Children and the KIPP Foundation, according to tax filings. The foundation also gave grants to scores of individual schools around the country as well as several charter school chains, including Uncommon Schools, which operates schools in New York and Massachusetts.
Bezos’s parents, Mike and Jackie, were active in a fierce battle last year to allow the creation of public charter schools in Washington state. Washington had been one of a handful of states that did not permit charters, which are publicly funded schools that are privately run and largely without unions. Teachers unions opposed the ballot measure, which narrowly passed with financial backing from Mike and Jackie Bezos as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Netflix founder Reed Hastings.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Jeff Bezos’s business career, however, is his willingness to endure short-term losses — something many newspapers have been forced to do in recent years — in order to prosper later. This can be particularly difficult in the face of impatient investors.
“One thing that I learned within the first couple of years of starting a company is that inventing and pioneering involves a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time,” Bezos said this year in a Harvard Business Review.
Today, for example, the company sells its Kindle devices at a loss. It is also willing to pay for expensive delivery to gain clients of its premium Prime membership. Last month, the company announced that it will hire 5,000 employees at these warehouses, an ambitious growth strategy that is hurting profits in the short run.
“The chief characteristic of Amazon is that it is relentless,” said Dan Gillmor, a journalism professor at Arizona State University and tech columnist (Gillmor owns a small stock holding in Amazon). “That is good news for The Post, because if this is a baseball game, we are, at the most, at the bottom of the third inning in the evolution of a 20th-century news model to one that is more diverse and part of a complicated ecosystem of news and information.”
Brad Stone, who recently completed a book about Bezos and Amazon, said he was surprised by the announcement because Bezos has been skeptical of “old guard” institutions that served as gatekeepers before the Internet and are vulnerable to the forces that have since been unleashed. On the other hand, “he also believes that his business methods are broadly applicable. . . . He is definitely a capitalist and very much an innovator.”
Said Shouraboura: “Jeff is a man of big vision. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does something astronomically innovative and interesting and different. That’s just him.”
Alice Crites, Paul Farhi, Jan Friedmann and Lyndsey Layton contributed to this report.