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SEATTLE — The story of Jeff Bezos being raised by an adoptive father is hardly new. The Amazon.com Inc. chief executive officer has said 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,” Mr. Jorgensen told Mr. 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 on Amazon.com, next week. “It was really all my fault.”
While Mr. Bezos has been largely dismissive of his biological father in interviews, Mr. Jorgensen has been entirely oblivious about his son.
The 18-year-old Mr. Jorgensen, was an expert unicycle rider who performed with a local circus. He married Mr. Bezos’ mother, the 16-year-old Jackie Gise, after she became pregnant. But the young Mr. Jorgensen stayed out late and drank, dropped out of college, and wasn’t interested in getting a job. Some 17 months after young Jeffrey’s birth, Ms. Gise filed for divorce.
Three years later, Ms. Gise told Mr. Jorgensen, according to Mr. Stone’s book, that she was remarrying and wanted him to stay out of their lives. Mr. Jorgensen complied.
“After a few years, he lost track of the family and then forgot their last name,” Mr. Stone wrote.
Mr. Stone found Mr. Jorgensen, 69, at his bike shop in Glendale, Ariz., late last year and told him that Mr. Bezos was his son. Mr. Jorgensen had no idea who Mr. Bezos was. Mr. Stone had to pull up photos from the Web on his phone to explain.
“His eyes filled with sorrow and disbelief,” Mr. Stone recounted.
The excerpt, and likely the book itself, go into much more detail about Amazon than about Mr. Bezos. And Mr. Stone acknowledges that Mr. 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.
But Mr. Stone details how Amazon is ultimately a reflection of its founder.
And often, the corporate culture is not for the faint of heart. Mr. Stone tells of Mr. Bezos’ ability to belittle executives who fall short of his expectations with a quick “Are you lazy or just incompetent?” quip. And rivals that occupy a business that Amazon is eyeing get particular focus.
Earlier this year, Mr. Bezos ventured into a new area — daily journalism — by buying the Washington Post.