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19 June


Amazon owner recently sold $1.8 billion shares

On the one hand, this is a bad sign, on the other, there may be personal reasons

Photo: Reuters

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just sold $1.8 billion worth of the company's shares in what may have been his largest stock sale in the internet company's history.

Bezos cashed in more than 960,000 shares valued at about $1,900 per share in the last three days of July, as company filings with the Security and Exchange Commission show. That represented 1.6% of Bezos' total stake in the company, and it could be the largest sale of Amazon stock that Bezos has ever made since he started the company more than 20 years ago, according to Forbes.

Bezos also transferred 19.7 million shares to ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos, making her the company's second-largest individual shareholder as Bloomberg notes. Her 4% holding in the company is worth $37 billion.

It's unclear why Bezos decided to sell off his shares at this time. To be sure, the sales were part of a so-called 10b5-1 trading plan, in which shares are automatically sold at pre-determined dates to avoid any perception of trading on insider knowledge.

Still, an executive cashing out big chunks of stock is often considered a negative sign, since it suggests the person may not be as bullish about the stock's potential as in the past.

As the owner of several other companies, including a space exploration company and the Washington Post newspaper, Bezos has a lot going on. There are plenty of personal reasons why Bezos might have sold his shares that have nothing to do with Amazon.

Bezos liquidates $1 billion worth of Amazon stock per year to fund Blue Origin, he said when speaking at an event hosted by Business Insider parent company Axel Springer last April.

"The only way I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel," - Bezos said at the time.

Bezos may not be as much of a philanthropist as other tech giants like Bill Gates. But he does operate a charity called the Bezos Day One Fund, which funds non-profits that help homeless families and builds preschools in low-income communities. He started the fund with $2 billion, so it's possible that he may be putting some of the cash from the sale toward that project.