Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said on Wednesday he is selling about $1 billion worth of the internet retailer's stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11-minute space rides starting next year.
Blue Origin had hoped to begin test flights with company pilots and engineers in 2017, but that probably will not happen until next year, Bezos told reporters at the annual U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
"My business model right now … for Blue Origin is I sell about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year and I use it to invest in Blue Origin," said Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon.com and also the owner of The Washington Post newspaper.
Ultimately, the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long-term goal to cut the cost of
Bezos is Amazon's largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. At Wednesday's closing share price of $909.28, Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling $1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Bezos' total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 percent stake in the company, are worth $73.54 billion at Wednesday's closing price.
For now, Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin is working toward far shorter hops — 11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.
Blue Origin has not started selling tickets or set prices to ride aboard its six-passenger, gumdrop-shaped capsule, known as New Shepard.
The reusable rocket and capsule are designed to carry passengers to an altitude of more than 100 miles (62 km) above the planet so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of Earth set against the blackness of space. Unmanned test flights have been underway since 2015.