Amazon's Jeff Bezos to start $2 billion charitable fund

SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday that he is giving $2 billion to start a fund that will open preschools in low-income neighborhoods and give money to nonprofits that helps homeless families.

Bezos, whose stake in Amazon is worth about $160 billion, says that he'll call it the Bezos Day One Fund. An Amazon.com Inc. spokeswoman confirmed that the money will all come from Bezos, though there are few details about how the fund will operate.

In a post to his Twitter account, Bezos said one part of the fund will give money to organizations and groups that provide shelter and food to young homeless families. The other part will launch and operate free preschools in low-income communities, where "the child will be the customer."

35 PHOTOS
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
See Gallery
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Photo via AOL
Photo via Getty
Photo via Getty
Photo via Getty
Photo via Getty
Photo via Getty
Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon, speaks at the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Forum on Leadership in Dallas, Texas, U.S., April 20, 2018. Picture taken on April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Rex Curry
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos laughs as he talks to the media while touring the new Amazon Spheres during the grand opening at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party ? Arrivals ? Beverly Hills, California, U.S., 04/03/2018 ? Amazon CEO Jeff and wife MacKenzie Bezos. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (L) answers a question from the media while getting a tour from Ron Gagliardo, senior manager of horticultural services for the Spheres, during the Amazon Spheres opening event at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos looks over a balcony on the top floor of the Amazon Spheres during an opening ceremony event at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos gives some closing comments after opening the new Amazon Spheres with some help from Alexa during an opening event at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, speaks about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, speaks about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, arrives to speak about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the Economic Club of New York in New York City, U.S., October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Washington Post newsroom in Washington January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Washington Post newsroom in Washington January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Washington Post newsroom in Washington January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, leaves the Allen and Co's annual media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talks about his company's new Fire smartphone at a news conference in Seattle, Washington June 18, 2014. Bezos unveiled a "Fire"smartphone on Wednesday equipped with a 3D-capable screen and the ability to recognize objects, music and TV shows, hoping to stand out in a crowded field dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics. REUTERS/Jason Redmond (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Amazon CEO and Chairman Jeff Bezos receives the Citation of Merit on behalf of the Apollo F-1 Search and Recovery Team at the 110th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York March 15, 2014. The club, which promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space featured catering by chef and exotic creator Gene Rurka. Chef Rurka prepared a variety of dishes featuring an array of insects, wildlife, animal body parts and invasive species. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS FOOD)
Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos speaks during a keynote speech with Amazon.com Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels at the AWS Re:Invent conference at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Richard Brian (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (R) arrives at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 24: Jeff Bezos attends the Axel Springer Award 2018 on April 24, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Under the motto 'An Evening for' Jeff Bezos receives the Axel Springer Award 2018. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., tours the Spheres during opening day ceremonies at the company's campus in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The Spheres, a new gathering and working space for Amazon employees located in the heart of the downtown Seattle Amazon campus, contains hundreds of plant species from cloud rainforest environments around the globe, and maintains a tropical climate similar to Costa Rica or Indonesia. Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC -DEC 14: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com (and owner of the Washington Post) arrives at the movie premiere tonight. -The world premiere of the movie, 'The Post' took place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. tonight. All of the major stars of the movie and director Steven Spielberg attended as well as many local politicians and business people such as Warren Buffett. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., center, tours the Spheres during opening day ceremonies at the company's campus in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The Spheres, a new gathering and working space for Amazon employees located in the heart of the downtown Seattle Amazon campus, contains hundreds of plant species from cloud rainforest environments around the globe, and maintains a tropical climate similar to Costa Rica or Indonesia. Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos arrives for the premiere of 'The Post' on December 14, 2017, in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Honoree Jeff Bezos speaks at the 21st Annual HRC National Dinner at the Washington Convention Center on October 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, listens during a meeting of technology executives and President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City. This is the first major meeting between President-elect Trump and technology industry leaders. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: (L to R) Jeff Bezos, Chairman and founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post, addresses the Economic Club of New York as moderator Charlie Rose looks on, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, October 27, 2016 in New York City. Bezos discussed the future of Amazon, space travel, and his ownership of The Washington Post. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 20: Founder/chairman/CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, speaks onstage during 'The Prime of Mr. Jeff Bezos' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 20, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

It's not yet known what his preschools will look like except that they will be based on the teaching philosophy of Maria Montessori, which focuses on play-based learning that caters to individuality and social-emotional development.

Bezos, who founded Amazon as an online bookstore more than two decades ago, has seen his wealth surge along with Amazon's stock. Forbes magazine placed him at the top of its list of billionaires for the first time this year, surpassing Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett.

Bezos' wealth has allowed him to pay for side ventures, including starting space exploration company Blue Origin and buying The Washington Post newspaper.

By choosing to focus his philanthropy on homelessness and early education, Bezos is likely influenced both by his parents' Bezos Family Foundation and by his adopted hometown of Seattle, however, mixed some natives may feel about the city's growing affordability crisis that's been largely attributed to the success of Amazon.

Bezos, and Amazon, have been criticized in Seattle for not doing more to help the needy and have become focal points in the booming region's angry debate about traffic, housing prices and homelessness. When Seattle passed a tax in May on large companies to fight the city's growing homelessness crisis, Amazon balked and even temporarily halted construction planning on a new high-rise building near its headquarters. City leaders quickly rescinded the levy.

The fight soured many more locals on Amazon and Bezos, and also overshadowed the growing portfolio of philanthropy they had done in the city. The most notable involving more than $40 million to the local nonprofit FareStart — a hospitality training program and restaurant business that aims to combat homelessness and poverty — and Mary's Place, whose mission to find and provide shelter for every child.

In addition to millions in cash, both nonprofits have been granted prime real estate in Amazon building spaces to do their work.

"He's a pretty amazing neighbor, him and MacKenzie," said Mary's Place director Marty Hartman. "Although he has a global vision, they really have a local heart."

In the education realm, Bezos is tipping his hat to the intensely private and media-shy Bezos Family Foundation that is run by his parents. The Amazon boss and his wife, who have four children, both serve on the foundation's board directors.

The private nonprofit foundation in its 2016 tax filing reported nearly $46 million in assets, and giving away $30 million in grants support its missions in early education, K-12 schools reform and youth leadership development and scholarships.

The foundation stepped up to help Seattle when the city worked to launch its universal pre-K program in 2014. The foundation helped fund a fact-finding trip to visit government-subsidized model programs in Boston, New York and New Jersey, according to Tim Burgess, the then a city council member who created the Seattle Preschool Program.

"The Bezos Family Foundation — and Jeff obviously has a role in that — has been engaged with early learning initiatives for years now," Burgess said, adding that it could only help the political momentum toward universal pre-K, as Seattle's preschool program is also once again on the ballot in November.

Bezos hinted earlier this year that he would take on a major philanthropic project after asking his Twitter followers for ideas on how to give away his money. In January, Bezos also personally gave $33 million in college scholarships for young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Bezos has yet to sign The Giving Pledge, an initiative launched by Gates encouraging billionaires to commit to giving away most of their wealth. The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the world's largest private nonprofit foundation has an endowment worth over $40 billion and has long supported homelessness services for families in the city. This year, Gates also announced it was taking up systemic poverty in the U.S.

___

Pisani reported from New York

___

Follow AP Education Reporter Sally Ho on Twitter: https://twitter.com/_SallyHo.

Read Full Story