Jeff Bezos says he is giving away two $100 million prizes as part of a “courage and civility award”.
The prizes were announced at the end of a press conference to commemorate Blue Origin’s trip to space, which carried Mr Bezos and three fellow passengers on the company’s first ever crewed flight.
The first two prizes will be given to activist and TV personality Van Jones, and chef and humanitarian José Andrés. Mr Bezos suggested that further awards could be given away in the future.
Mr Bezos said that both of the recipients were not clear yet how the money would be spent. It could be given away to non-profits, either in one major sum or split between multiple ones, he said.
The Amazon founder has faced sustained criticism over his trip to space, and suggestions that he could better spend the money to fix problems on Earth. He has said such critics are “largely right”, but denied that space travel and improvements at home are in conflict.
The new award seemed aimed at addressing some of that criticism, however, with Mr Bezos giving away a small part of his vast fortune with a view to creating new solutions.
Mr Bezos said that the prize was a new “philanthropic initiative”. It came out of a belief that people are too quick to question people’s “character or motives” rather than their “ideas”.