Jeff Bezos in October 2010. (Flickr photo by Steve Jurvetson)
Jeff Bezos in October 2010. (Flickr photo by Steve Jurvetson)

Ted Jorgensen is a 69-year-old former circus performer and unicyclist who runs a small bike shop in Glendale, Ariz. He has an epic laugh, and his shop is lauded in online reviews for its exceedingly good prices.

Yes, he is the biological father of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

But Jorgensen, who divorced from his first wife, Jacklyn, when “Jeffrey” was a toddler, didn’t know the identity of his son until journalist Brad Stone, working on a book about Amazon and its founder, showed up at Jorgensen’s shop last year.

Here’s how Stone recounts the story in an excerpt from the book, published this morning by Bloomberg Businessweek.

I’d considered a number of ways he might react to my unannounced appearance but gave a very low probability to the likelihood of what actually happened: He had no idea what I was talking about. Jorgensen said he didn’t know who Jeff Bezos was and was baffled by my suggestion that he was the father of this famous CEO.

I mentioned Jacklyn Gise and Jeffrey, the son they had during their brief teenage marriage. The old man’s face flushed with recognition. “Is he still alive?” he asked, not yet fully comprehending.

“Your son is one of the most successful men on the planet,” I told him. I showed him some Internet photographs on my smartphone, and for the first time in 45 years, Jorgensen saw his biological son. His eyes filled with sorrow and disbelief.

Earlier this year, a few months after the visit from Stone, Jorgensen told his family about his biological son. Stone reports that one of Jorgensen’s stepsons went online to research Bezos, watched a clip of the Amazon founder being interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, and was “startled” to hear Bezos’ legendary laugh, because it was almost exactly the same as Jorgensen’s laugh.

The full excerpt from Bloomberg Businessweek is here, and “The Everything Store” is available for pre-order now. Stone will be discussing the book at Seattle’s Town Hall on Oct. 22, and we’ll be interviewing him about the book on GeekWire, as well.

Comments

  • michaelstinson@me.com

    I grew up in the Phoenix area and my friends and I would ride our bikes to Roadrunner Bikes when it was on Bethany Home Rd. He was always a cool guy and we bought all our bike stuff exclusively from Ted. We went there almost every weekend, and even raced BMX for his “team”. I “” team because it was basically just a group of kids who he gave a jersey promoting his bike shop to, but in reality it gave us a sense of belonging to something. I remember saving my allowance so I could go to Ted’s shop to buy my parts and stickers and he always gave us a great deal, often times throwing in something extra that we really wanted, or selling us stuff for below the sticker price. I doubt he ever made any money off of us, he just always seemed happy to see us.
    I then grew up and had a son of my own and I always remembered Ted. I then moved to Peoria AZ, a suburb of Phoenix in the North part of town. I needed some pool supplies so I went to the pool store off 67th ave and low and behold I see a sign above a store that read Roadrunner Bikes. I was amazed so I went inside and there he was! Amazing thing is that even after what must have been 20 years he knew who I was. I could have gone to any store to get my son’s first bike, I mean it’s a kid’s first bike, any crapper would do. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so it was a $250 Redline for my 5 year old. He tried to sell it to me for $225 but I wouldn’t have it!
    I would stop in from time to time just to say hi. Oh, I forgot, my wife still has her Schwinn La Tour that she rode in college and it was looking a bit worse for the ware, and she loves that thing. So for her birthday I took it to Ted to get it spruced up and he did a wonderful job, and again tried to give it back at a ridiculously low price. I took a new job with the company I work for that moved me out of state, so there was one person I really needed to see before I left, so I made a visit to Ted. He was very proud of my success, the promotion that was moving me away, and of my family, he truly is one cool dude.
    I accepted a new position with the company that actually moved me back home recently, but I’m living in a different part of town so I haven’t had the opportunity to visit him yet, but will definitely do so. I’m not sure if I’ll ask him anything about this though, as interested I am in finding how he feels about all of this. I just don’t want him to think that my visit was because of this as I truly have a warm spot in my heart for this man.
    Oh, and he did end up having children of his own, they are grown now, and he is still with his wife of many years.

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