Quieter brother comes out of the shadows
If you are the younger brother of Jeff Bezos — the richest human being in modern history; so loaded he could give everybody on the planet a tenner and still be a multi-billionaire; a man who has changed the way the planet shops forever; an entrepreneur with his fingers in more pies than [UK ready meals boss] Charlie Bigham yet who is, to all intents and purposes, just a Bond villain in a gilet — you could only go in one of three directions in life.
First, you could join him. A bloke like our Jeffrey, who earns US$3537 ($4918) every second, is probably hiring, so he could at least give you a job as his chief impact officer, or something. You’d never need to work again, and Jeff would have someone in the boardroom who really gets him, like how Kim Jong-un likes to keep his siblings in-house: it’s easier to keep an eye on them there.
Second, you could try to take him down, or build a rival company called, I don’t know, “Nile”. This is a very bad idea, because of the whole Bond villain thing. And thirdly, you could just be lowkey, unencumbered by the same level of ambition, and let Jeff take the limelight. The Mike McGear to his Paul McCartney. The Mycroft to his Sherlock. The Edward to his Andrew.
For most of his adult life, Mark Bezos has opted for the third path. Without offending his older sibling, he neither gets in the way of Jeff ’s business, nor seems jealous, nor seeks to join it. They are on different orbits . . .
Or they were. Now, Jeff has coerced Mark, 53, into joining him on the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin. The flight is scheduled for July 20, a fortnight after he resigns as chief executive of Amazon. A boozy weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed was never going to cut it as a leaving blowout, was it?
“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life, it’s an adventure, it’s a big deal for me,” Bezos — in his little gilet — says in an Instagram video released this week. “I invited my brother to come on this first flight because we’re closest friends.”
The video then cuts to Jeff, now in a cowboy hat and aviators, sitting having a drink with Mark, before he abruptly asks him to join him.
“Are you serious?” Mark says, with the kind of wide-eyed panic of a woman being proposed to in a busy restaurant and unable to decline without upsetting everyone.
“I am, I think it would be meaningful,” Bezos replies, a little weirdly.
So, whether Mark likes it or not, the Bezos Bros are going to (inner) space. And they do, apparently, get on famously. Five years the Amazon founder’s junior, Mark and his sister, Christina, have a different biological father, but grew up together as they moved between Albuquerque, Texas and Florida.
While Jeff went on to take over the world, trampling all in his path as he went, Mark has done the opposite. Not only is he a director of the Bezos Family Foundation, but his day job is split between serving on leadership boards for education and poverty-fighting charities, and as a volunteer firefighter in New York (he also founded a private equity firm, but we will forget that).
Mark is reportedly married with four children, and has the kind of easy, confident demeanour and naturally thick-set build that might perhaps inspire a nerdy, weedier sibling persistently to feel he needs to prove his worth by rapaciously accruing more and more wealth by, at times, questionable means, obsess over weightlifting in midlife, or build phallic spacecrafts and
I was just awestruck. What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.
force family members aboard. He’s also funnier.
“If anyone’s confused, I’m the one with the smaller bank account,” he remarked, appearing at a live event with Jeff four years ago.
“HA HA HA,” Jeff bellowed, “he’s the big brother.”
When they are together, Jeff went on to say, “I just laugh continuously.”
So space ought to be a hoot, which is the main thing, because there can’t be many people who’d want to share an 18-metre, sealed, pilotless tin can with their brother, no matter how close they are.
As any parent knows, getting through a long car journey — nay, a 15-minute fish finger dinner — without one sibling punching the other is a challenge, and that’s brothers that get on.
I give it three minutes of the total 11-minute flight time before Jeff accuses Mark of farting, Mark denies it, then Jeff unbuckles his little space gilet and tries to put Mark in a headlock.
“I was just awestruck,” Mark says in that Instagram video, reflecting on the invitation. “What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.”
The video’s caption ends with “#GradatimFerociter”: step by step, ferociously. That’s the spirit. To infinity, and beyond. Just remember to play nice.