SEATTLE – The story of Jeff Bezos being raised by an adoptive father is hardly new. The Amazon.com Inc. CEO has said previously that he never knew his biological father, and the only time he thinks about him is when he fills out medical forms.
But in his forthcoming book, Bloomberg BusinessWeek senior writer Brad Stone unearths Ted Jorgensen, and finds a sympathetic figure who had no idea that one of the world’s most successful businessmen is his son. Instead, the onetime circus performer expresses regret that he walked away from the son he fathered when he was 18.
“I wasn’t a good father or a husband,” Jorgensen told Stone in “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” which has been excerpted in the current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek and will be available in bookstores, as well as Amazon.com, next week. “It was really all my fault.”
While Bezos has been largely dismissive of his biological father in interviews over the years, Jorgensen has been entirely oblivious about his son. The 18-year-old Jorgensen, who was an expert unicycle rider who performed with a local circus, married Bezos’ mother, the 16-year-old Jackie Gise, after she was pregnant. But the young Jorgensen stayed out late and drank, dropped out of college and wasn’t interested in getting a job. About 17 months after young Jeffrey’s birth, Gise filed for divorce.
Three years later, Gise told Jorgensen, according to Stone’s book, that she was remarrying and wanted him to stay out of their lives. Jorgensen complied.
“He lost track of the family and then forgot their last name,” Stone wrote.
Stone found Jorgensen at his bike shop in Glendale, Ariz., late last year and told him that Bezos was his son. The 69-year-old had no idea who Bezos was. Stone had to pull up photos on his phone to explain.
“His eyes filled with sorrow and disbelief,” Stone said.
The excerpt, and likely the book itself, go into much more detail about Amazon than Bezos. And Stone acknowledges that Bezos, while approving many interviews with family, friends and senior executives, did not comment for the book, saying it was “too early” for a look at Amazon’s history.