Jeff Bezos | MediaGuardian 100 2013

Not only has the Amazon chief disrupted online retail, he has now moved into print media with his Washington Post takeover

Job: founder and chief executive, Amazon
Age: 49
Industry: digital media and online retail
2012 ranking: 12

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos proved once again in August why he is among the most unpredictable – and influential – executives of his generation with his $250m purchase of the Washington Post.

The move caught even the most seasoned of industry observers by surprise – Salon's Andrew Leonard describing it as "The iceberg just rescued the Titanic" – bringing to an end to eight decades of ownership of the Watergate paper by the Graham family.

Amazon's tax arrangements, like those of Apple and Google, have come under fire in the past year.

But the online retailer powers on regardless, disrupting traditional media and entertainment sectors – TV programming just one of its latest areas of expansion. In May Amazon Studios ordered five series, including political comedy Alpha House starring John Goodman, from 14 pilots tested out online.

Amazon – which started out in books, CDs and DVDs, before expanding in all directions, including tablets (Kindle), video on demand (buying LoveFilm in the UK) and cloud computing – is also piloting moves into clothing and grocery delivery.

In April this year, when Amazon reported annual revenues of more than $61bn, Bezos' annual three-page memo began as it has every year since the company's 1997 stock market debut, reflecting his restless, expansionist nature: "It's still Day 1."

One former colleague described him as making "ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies". Another said the retail giant he founded in 1994 has "a pretty brutal Darwinian atmosphere", in a company which habitually forgoes profits in favour of investing in improving its existing operations and expansion.

Bezos still owns a fifth of the business and has an estimated fortune of more than $25bn – making the Washington Post purchase small change. Other private investments he has made include a stake in Henry Blodget's tech news website Business Insider, a space travel project and a "10,000-year clock" inside a mountain in west Texas.

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