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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.

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