Jeff Bezos once said he has Bernie Madoff to thank for his e-commerce empire

  • The Amazon founder and CEO left his job at a New York-based hedge fund in 1994 and set out to sell books online.
  • He was driven off Wall Street in part by competition from Bernie Madoff, according to a report from The Washingtonian.
  • Madoff ultimately defrauded investors of an estimated $65 billion in the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

Jeff Bezos once said he has convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff to thank for his e-commerce empire.

The Amazon founder and CEO left his job at a New York-based hedge fund in 1994 and set out to sell books online, driven off Wall Street in part by competition from Madoff, according to a report from The Washingtonian.

Former AOL President Ted Leonsis recounted the conversation in which Bezos revealed the reason behind his multibillion-dollar pivot.

"He said, 'I had a competitor who was kicking my ass,'" Leonsis told The Washingtonian.

"No Bernie Madoff, no Amazon," Bezos reportedly said.

Madoff would have been a formidable rival in the mid-'90s.

The chairman of Madoff Investment Securities ultimately defrauded investors of an estimated $65 billion in the largest Ponzi scheme in history — a scheme that wasn't discovered until 2008, after Bezos had already left the Street and driven cross-country to Seattle.

Madoff is now serving out a 150-year sentence at a federal correctional facility, and the hedge fund manager he drove out of New York now runs a $740 billion e-commerce company.

Read the full Washingtonian report here.

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Correction: Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme wasn't discovered until 2008. An earlier version misstated the year.