Jeff Bezos was born to Jacklyn Bezos and Ted Jorgensen in 1964, and adopted by Jacklyn's second husband Miguel Bezos four years later
Jeff Bezos may never have founded Amazon if it weren’t for his parents, Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos.
The entrepreneur was born to Jacklyn and her first husband, Ted Jorgensen, in January 1964, though Jacklyn and Ted split when he was 17 months old. In 1968, Jacklyn wed Miguel, who adopted then-4-year-old Jeff.
Jacklyn and Miguel — who also go by Jackie and Mike — provided their son with an initial investment of nearly $250,000 in 1995 to launch an Internet bookstore — despite Jeff warning them that there was a 70% chance he could lose every penny, according to Brad Stone’s 2013 book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.
“I want you to know what the risks are, because I still want to come home for Thanksgiving if this doesn’t work,” Jeff told his parents, per Stone.
But it wasn’t just financial support that Jacklyn and Miguel provided. The former Amazon CEO opened up about how his parents’ emotional support was instrumental in him making the jump from investment banker to entrepreneur.
“They’re so loving and supportive,” Jeff told Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, about his parents in 2018. “When you have loving and supportive people in your life ... you end up being able to take risks.”
But while Jacklyn and Miguel were instrumental in the beginnings of Amazon, Jeff’s biological father, Ted, did not know that his son was on a path to becoming one of the world’s richest men. Ted, who lost contact with his son after he and Jacklyn divorced in 1965, didn’t discover Jeff was his biological son until 2012, according to Stone’s book.
Though Jeff did not have a relationship with Ted, who died in 2015, he has an extremely tight bond with his parents, Jacklyn and Miguel.
“I won that lottery of having so many people in my life who have given me that unconditional love,” Jeff told Döpfner about his family.
So who are Jeff Bezos’ parents? Here is everything to know about Jacklyn Bezos, Miguel Bezos and Ted Jorgensen.
Ted and Jacklyn had Jeff when they were teenagers
Ted and Jacklyn were high school sweethearts: The pair, whose fathers worked at the same nuclear energy laboratory in New Mexico, began dating in the early 1960s despite their two-year age difference. Then, in 1963, Jacklyn — who was just 16 years old and a high school sophomore at the time — and Ted, who was 18, discovered they were expecting a child, according to Stone's 2013 book, The Everything Store.
“I can assure you that being a pregnant teenager in high school was not cool in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at that time,” Jeff told Döpfner about his mother in 2018. “And so it was very difficult for her.”
Though they were just teenagers, Ted and Jacklyn decided to get married. With money from Jacklyn’s parents, they initially wed in Mexico and later celebrated in the States at her parents’ house on July 19, 1963. Then, on Jan. 12, 1964 — two weeks after Jacklyn’s 17th birthday — their son, Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen, was born.
Jacklyn brought baby Jeff with her while she attended college night classes
Though she became a mother in high school, Jacklyn was determined to finish her education — despite any obstacles that young parenthood presented. The first roadblock came soon after she gave birth to Jeff, when her high school administrators informed her she would not be allowed to graduate, she revealed in a commencement speech at Cambridge College in 2019.
“It didn’t make any sense to me, so I pushed back and I kept on pushing back. And eventually the school relented, they would allow me to come back to school but there would be conditions,” she said in her speech.
The conditions prohibited her from talking to or having lunch with other students and from walking on stage to receive her diploma at graduation. Nonetheless, Jacklyn graduated and went on to take secretarial classes before enrolling in night school. She selected her classes based on which professors would allow her to bring Jeff along with her, she shared in the Cambridge College commencement speech.
“I would show up with an infant and two duffel bags,” Jacklyn said. “One full of my text books and the other full of diapers — cloth diapers, bottles … and the second duffel bag would have items that might keep Jeff interested for a few minutes.”
Jeff has expressed his pride in his mother on several occasions. Following her Cambridge College speech, the Amazon founder called her story “incredible” on X (formerly Twitter).
“So grateful. So proud. #Grit,” he added, along with a video clip of her speech.
For Mother’s Day in 2022, Jeff shared a similar sentiment about his mother on social media.
“Mom, I have no idea how you did what you did,” he wrote on X. “Thank you for sharing your strength and for all the sacrifices you made. I love you.”
Ted and Jacklyn divorced in June 1965
When Jeff was just 17 months old, Jacklyn filed for divorce from Ted.
According to The Everything Store, Ted and Jacklyn’s relationship was troubled from the start. The couple struggled financially, with Ted performing in a unicycle troupe and working at a department store that paid $1.25 an hour. Additionally, Ted was described as an “inattentive dad and husband” who drank and partied frequently — an account that he didn’t disagree with.
“I wasn’t a good father or husband,” Ted told Stone in The Everything Store. “It was really all my fault. I don’t blame Jackie at all.”
Following their divorce, Jacklyn and Jeff moved back in with her parents. Ted visited Jeff occasionally when he was a toddler, but often failed to pay child support, Stone wrote. The last time he saw Jeff was when Jeff was 3 years old, according to TIME.
Jacklyn and Miguel married in April 1968
Following her divorce, Jacklyn met Miguel Bezos, a Cuban immigrant who moved to the United States in 1962 at 16 — but there are differing accounts of how the two first crossed paths.
According to The Everything Store, Jacklyn and Miguel first met when they were both working at the Bank of New Mexico. Miguel had started a job as a clerk on the overnight shift to earn extra money while he studied at the University of Albuquerque, and Jacklyn began working in their bookkeeping department following her divorce from Ted. Their shifts overlapped by an hour.
However, CNBC reported that the two first met when Jacklyn was taking night classes at a local university. Jeff shared a similar story on his Instagram account.
“He received a scholarship to college in Albuquerque, where he met my mom,” he wrote in a 2021 post about his father, Miguel.
The couple were married in April 1968 in Albuquerque when Jeff was 4 years old. Shortly after the wedding, Miguel graduated from the University of Albuquerque and accepted a job as an engineer at Exxon — moving the new family of three to Houston.
Miguel adopted Jeff and had two more children with Jacklyn
Following Jacklyn’s wedding to Miguel, she contacted her first husband, Ted, to inform him of her marriage and the family’s upcoming move to Houston. She also requested that he allow Miguel to adopt Jeff and let him take the last name Bezos — which Ted agreed to, per The Everything Store.
Miguel adopted Jeff shortly after the wedding, and Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen became Jeffrey Preston Bezos. From the age of 4 on, Jeff grew up calling Miguel Dad.
“The reality, as far as I’m concerned, is that my Dad is my natural father,” Jeff told Wired magazine in 1999. “The only time I ever think about it, genuinely, is when a doctor asks me to fill out a form.”
Miguel and Jacklyn went on to have two children together: A daughter, Christina, in 1969 and a son named Mark, a year later, according to The Everything Store. Jeff and his younger siblings have had a tight bond since they were children — which Jeff credits his mother for fostering.
“We’re all very close and I have my mother to thank for that,” he told Döpfner in 2018. “She worked hard to make sure as we grew up that we stayed close together.”
And Jacklyn’s efforts to keep her children close appears to have worked: “Having siblings you’re close to is one of life’s greatest gifts,” Jeff wrote on Instagram in 2022.
Jacklyn and Miguel were two of the first investors in Amazon
In 1994, Jeff convinced 22 individuals to invest in his idea for an online bookstore — and two of those individuals were his parents, Jacklyn and Miguel. According to a 1997 SEC filing unearthed by Bloomberg, Jacklyn and Miguel invested nearly $250,000 in Amazon in 1995 — despite Jeff warning them that they could lose every penny.
However, Jacklyn and Miguel not only believed in their son’s vision but had faith in their son to execute it.
“We saw the business plan, but all of that went over our heads to a large extent,” Miguel told Stone in The Everything Store. “As corny as it sounds, we were betting on Jeff.”
And it was a bet that would ultimately pay off: The investment entitled Jacklyn and Miguel to a 6% stake in the company — which was worth $30 billion as of 2018, according to Bloomberg. The return on their initial investment? 12,000,000%.
“We were fortunate enough that we have lived overseas and we have saved a few pennies so we were able to be an angel investor,” Miguel said at a 2015 event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, according to Bloomberg. “The rest is history.”
Jeff had no relationship with Ted
Per Jacklyn’s request, Ted had no contact with his son following her marriage to Miguel. In fact, Ted was completely unaware that his son was the CEO of Amazon until 2012, when he was informed by the author of The Everything Store, Stone.
“He was utterly confused by what I was telling him and denied being the father of a famous CEO who was one of the wealthiest men in the world,” Stone wrote.
Ted, who moved to Phoenix in 1974, remarried twice and owned his own bike shop, expressed regret over not maintaining contact with Jeff over the years, according to a 2014 interview with Inside Edition.
“A big mistake,” he said about the decision. “But at the time, I thought it was the best.”
Ted and Jeff (who learned about his biological father when he was 10, according to The Everything Store) never reunited upon the discovery; Ted died in March 2015 at the age of 70. However, he did leave a message for Jeff during his interview with Inside Edition.
“I would just like to tell him I used to change his diapers and just shake his hand and tell him he's really done a good job with his life,” Ted said.
Jacklyn and Miguel founded the Bezos Family Foundation in 2000
In 2000, Jacklyn and Miguel founded the Bezos Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that focuses on education. According to the foundation’s website, its mission is to “invest in the science of learning and the experiences that youth need from birth to high school to pursue their own path for success.”
Jacklyn and Miguel are both major donors to the foundation, contributing nearly 600,000 Amazon shares to the non-profit between 2001 and 2016, according to CNBC. As a result, the Bezos Family Foundation has been able to make significant contributions — including $710 million to the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in 2022, per Fortune, and $166 million to NYU-Langone Health in 2021.
Jeff calls Miguel his “role model”
Jeff has nothing but words of praise for his father, Miguel. In May 2022, the former Amazon CEO teared up recalling his father’s experience as a Cuban immigrant in the United States.
“He came from Santiago, Cuba. He was 16. He spoke no English, he had to make his way. He had those tough experiences,” Jeff said while introducing Miguel at the 2022 Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Awards. “I think in every immigrant you'll find a deep optimism and a deep resilience too. My dad is an intense hard worker. My dad is warm and he teaches an easy smile.”
Jeff added, through tears, that he and his siblings could “not have had a better role model.”
That speech wasn’t the only time Jeff has spoken highly of his father. On Father’s Day in 2021, he penned an emotional tribute to his father on Instagram.
“Dad, you’ve given me the greatest gifts a son could ever receive,” he wrote alongside a throwback photo. “You always believed in me and loved me unconditionally. With words and actions, you taught high standards, laughter, hard work, kindness, love, seriousness, and lightness. I’m the luckiest son in the world, and I love you.”
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