By Adam Lashinsky
Amazon’s CEO has driven his company to all-consuming growth (and even, believe it or not, profits). Today, though, as he deepens his involvement in his media and space ventures, Bezos is becoming a power beyond Amazon. It has forced him to become an even better leader.
When Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian was freed from an Iranian prison in January after having been held for 18 months on vague charges of espionage, he traveled on a Swiss military aircraft to a U.S. base in Germany. A short time later the Post’s proprietor, Jeff Bezos (No.1, World’s Greatest Leaders), showed up to bring Rezaian home. “It’s an inescapable part of the mission of the Post to send some people into hostile environments,” reflects Bezos of Rezaian, who was detained while reporting in Iran. “And what happened to Jason and his wife, Yegi, is completely unfair, unjust—outrageous. I considered it a privilege to be able to go pick him up. I had dinner with them at the Army base the night that I got there, and then he was getting released after his debriefing the next day, and I asked him, ‘Where do you want to go? I’ll take you wherever you want.’ And he said, ‘How about Key West?’ I was like, ‘Okay!’ And that’s what I did. I dropped him off in Key West. He and Yegi had only been married for just over a year before he got imprisoned. It was almost like a second honeymoon.”
A jubilant photo of reporter and owner inside the latter’s jet quickly made the rounds. Asked if he meant to make a statement by personally retrieving his employee, Bezos replies, “I did it just for Jason. My motivation is super simple. But I would be delighted if people take from it the idea that we’ll never abandon anybody.”
It’s an unexpectedly sunny mid-March morning in Seattle, and Bezos’s disposition is even sunnier. Who can blame him? Amazon’s amzn market value is $260 billion, with Bezos’s stake worth $46 billion. Bigness hasn’t sapped its growth: Sales jumped 20%, to $107 billion, last year, and Amazon surprised investors with operating profits of $2.2 billion, a 12-fold increase from 2014. The Post, a declining icon before Bezos bought it for $250 million in 2013, is bubbling with new ideas. Even Blue Origin, the secretive rocket-ship company Bezos funds out of his own pocket, is enjoying a moment of prominence, having promised to blast off with space tourists in a few years.
-read full profile at Fortune