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Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos isn't just one of the richest men in the world — he has also become one of the most influential executives across an array of industries beyond online retail, including aerospace, newspapers, and now movies.

Why it matters: Bezos' splashy and far-reaching investments distinguish him from other tech leaders who are trying to lay low as regulatory pressures mount.

The big picture: Bezos preserved his reputation as a quirky, efficiency-obsessed engineer during the years he spent building Amazon into an empire.

  • As he prepares to step down as Amazon's CEO — he'll leave that role on July 5, the company said yesterday — his personal hobbies and penchant for the spotlight are an increasingly visible element of his business ambitions.

Bezos' fondness for red carpet appearances has media insiders questioning whether Amazon's costly MGM Studios acquisition, announced Wednesday, is about bolstering Prime subscriptions or scratching Bezos' Hollywood itch. MGM is the home to several blockbuster franchises, including James Bond.

  • His personal ownership of The Washington Post, one of the biggest news outlets in the country, complicates his relationship with Washington D.C. at the same time he's seeking special financial carveouts for his space company, Blue Origin, and as Amazon seeks regulatory approval for acquisitions like MGM.
  • His high-profile divorce — one of the most expensive in history — was precipitated by the revelation that Bezos had begun secretly dating Lauren Sanchez, a former TV news anchor.

Be smart: Until relatively recently, Amazon had largely avoided the regulatory spotlight and Bezos was rarely the story himself. But lawmakers have become wary of the tech giant's power and Bezos' influence.

  • The MGM deal doesn’t immediately set off anti-competitive alarm bells for legal observers, but lawmakers from both parties are already voicing concerns, arguing that it gives Amazon too much power over yet another industry.
  • Amazon announced the deal just one day after Washington, D.C.'s attorney general filed a major antitrust lawsuit against the e-commerce giant, alleging anticompetitive pricing practices in the online retail market.

Yes, but: On Wall Street, these concerns have barely registered to shareholders, who are happy to take risks on Bezos' passion projects or new business lines.

  • MGM, for example, is considered by many to be a distressed asset. Although the pressure to consolidate in the media may put a small premium on the studio, it's been passed over by other major tech giants, including Netflix, for far less money.
  • The $8.5 billion price tag for MGM would raise eyebrows and drive investor skepticism were anybody else to make the offer. But Amazon's announcement didn't try to make a case for the business value of the deal, simply citing the quality of the MGM catalog.

The bottom line: As Bezos enters the next chapter of his life, his appetite for risk and new challenges seem to be broadening. While Wall Street doesn't seem to mind, Washington seems more skeptical.

Go deeper

Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine production company sold for $900 million

Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images

Hello Sunshine, the Hollywood production company co-founded by Reese Witherspoon, has sold to a new, unnamed media company backed by Blackstone and led by former Disney executives Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer, Hello Sunshine said Monday.

Why it matters: Hello Sunshine was one of several smaller Hollywood studios exploring opportunities to sell, given the ripe market for content firms in the streaming era.

Updated 26 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.