Fact Check

Is This a Real Picture of Jeff Bezos in Amazon's Office in 1999?

The company had recently expanded to sell other items beyond books.

Published Feb. 27, 2023

 (60 Minutes)
Image Via 60 Minutes
Claim:
A picture authentically shows a young Jeff Bezos in Amazon company offices during its early days in 1999.

Nearly three decades ago, Amazon was founded as a website that aimed to sell books quickly and efficiently. Since then it expanded into a tech conglomerate worth billions of dollars, making it one of the world's largest online retailers. 

We spotted a picture claiming to represent the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, in relatively more humble origins. The picture claims to show Bezos' offices in 1999, and depicts him seated before an older model computer, with "amazon.com" painted on a sign on the wall next to him. 

This is indeed an accurate picture of Amazon offices in its early days. We searched for pictures or videos of his office and found this 1999 report titled "Nerd of the Amazon" from CBS News' "60 Minutes," in which correspondent Bob Simon interviewed the tech mogul. While the report itself does not feature the exact shot above, we know that Simon is seated next to Bezos and the office in which he conducts part of the interview is the same with the "amazon.com" sign. Bezos' office can be seen at the 1:37 mark:


(Screenshot via 60 Minutes/YouTube)

Earlier in the interview Simon says of Bezos' desk, which happens to be an old door, "Come on! You can afford a better desk than that."

In response, Bezos says, "It's a symbol of spending money on the things that matter to customers, and not spending money on the things that don't." 

"And you don't need clean carpets," Simon retorts. 

At that point in 1999, Simon described Bezos as "a giant" and a "titan of our time." Bezos was a billionaire who still worked out of dingy Seattle offices. Amazon was a relatively new phenomenon, but Simon was incredulous about the state of the office.

"More like a college dorm than a corporate headquarters," Simon said. His introduction to Bezos also poked fun at the billionaire's unusual laugh: "You generally hear him before you see him [...] It's the ear-piercing laugh of billionaire Jeff Bezos."

The same office, but with a different individual seated alongside Bezos, was featured in a "60 Minutes Australia" interview that aired in 2000, as per the program's official YouTube account. The moment featuring Bezos' office can be seen at the 6:29 mark: 

Liz Hayes, the correspondent, pointed out, "Like everyone else in his office, Bezos uses an old door as a desk." The office shown in this interview has the same sign on the wall, and the same desk and computer as the photograph above, but the person sitting next to Bezos is different. 


(Screenshot of 60 Minutes Australia/YouTube)

Given that we have footage from Bezos' two interviews in 1999 and 2000 with shots from the same office and featuring Bob Simon, the correspondent from the Reddit picture, we rate this claim a "True."

Sources

"20 Years of Amazon's Expansive Evolution." CBS News, 15 July 2015, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/20-years-of-amazons-expansive-evolution/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

Abbruzzese, Jason. "1999 '60 Minutes' Interview Shows Amazon before It Was the Mega-Company You Know Now." Mashable, 28 Nov. 2017, https://mashable.com/article/jeff-bezos-60-minutes-1999. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

"Jeff Bezos | First Office Tour | Amazon.Com | Founder and Ceo." Creators Talks. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEvHy7-JZH4. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

"Jeff Bezos Takes Reporter on Exclusive Tour of Early Amazon HQ." 60 Minutes Australia. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44XbHVRxnMA. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

Weise, Karen, and Michael Corkery. "People Now Spend More at Amazon Than at Walmart." The New York Times, 17 Aug. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/technology/amazon-walmart.html. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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