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Parents’ incredible $30b decision

This is why you have children. Picture: Jason Redmond
This is why you have children. Picture: Jason Redmond

TO HAVE supportive parents is a great advantage in life, but so is having insanely successful children.

Most parents spend their weekends driving their kids to various sporting events and maybe one day chip in for their home deposit, but they do so without expecting much in return.

Jackie and Mike Bezos were also supportive parents and one act in particular has seen them reap the rewards in a truly historic way.

In 1995, the parents of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos helped their son with a notable investment in his fledgling e-commerce business.

The couple poured US$245,573 into the Amazon start-up, a year after it was started. According to Bloomberg, their contribution could have been the most successful venture investment of all time.

The investment was recorded in a prospectus when the company went public two years later but the parent's holdings haven't been publicly disclosed since 1999.

If they held on to their shares for the 21 years since the IPO, their stake could be worth almost US$30 billion ($40 billion) today, according to Bloomberg.

That eye-watering figure would make them richer than Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Although public documents show they have donated some shares to charity, even accounting for that, their total return could be as high as 12,000,000 per cent.

And while they likely continue to donate to charity, it's believed the couple remain as the second largest stakeholder of the world's second-most valuable company, behind Apple.

But of course, it was never a given that Amazon would emerge from the dot.com bubble as the e-commerce behemoth it has become.

"I want you to know how risky this is," Jeff Bezos reportedly told his parents at the time. "Because I want to come home at dinner for Thanksgiving and I don't want you to be mad at me."

AMAZON WORKERS SHOW THE DARK SIDE OF THE STORY

With a net worth of $192 billion Jeff Bezos has become the wealthiest person in history but his company has been accused of treating its workers unfairly.

Amazon factory workers have publicly complained about being forced to work long hours, having their bathroom breaks monitored and poor working conditions.

Vickie Allen, 49, started working in an Amazon factory - which the company calls fulfilment centres - in Texas in early 2017.

"I noticed managers would ask you questions all the time about any bathroom breaks, performance and productivity," she told The Guardian, which this week published a wide-ranging investigation into the treatment of workers.

After injuring her back while counting goods on a workstation that was reportedly missing a piece of protective equipment, she was often sent home without pay.

According to her account, the ensuing battle over access to workers compensation left Ms Allen homeless, sleeping in her car in the carpark of the Amazon fulfilment centre.

She said Amazon offered her $US3500 and a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from publicly criticising the company but she declined to sign the offer and has been documenting her story on YouTube. A video posted yesterday shows she is still living in the carpark outside the factory where she continues to work.

"I can't believe this is my life now … I work for the world's richest man and I live in my car," she says in the video.

Her story is unusual but The Guardian investigation shows she's not the only one to fall on hard time after being injured working at Amazon. The company is fighting a number of lawsuits from disgruntled former employees.

In response to the story, an Amazon spokesperson pointed out the company has "created over 130,000 jobs in the last year alone and now employs over 560,000 people around the world. Ensuring the safety of these associates is our number one priority," she said.

But the company has faced growing protests from workers around the globe.

In February, several hundred Amazon warehouse workers from Germany, Poland and Italy protested outside a building in Berlin where inside Mr Bezos was scheduled to receive an award for innovation. The workers were claiming Amazon pays too little and offers too few benefits.

The protest was followed by a similar demonstration in May by one of the UK's biggest trade unions who protested outside an Amazon event in Manchester over the way the retail giant treats its warehouse workers.

Topics:  amazon business jackie and mike bezos jeff bezos parenting