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Earlier this year Amazon played a pivotal role in diminishing and ultimately defeating a Seattle business tax to fund homelessness services and affordable housing.

Amazon has said the senator's statements about the company are "inaccurate and misleading".

The world's richest man announced the move in a tweet, saying the charity would be called the Day One Fund.

The fund will be split between Day 1 Families Fund and Day 1 Academies Fund.

The interview shed new details on Bezos's philanthropic push, which was devised with his wife MacKenzie and will include building and operating a network of "Montessori-like" preschools to help prevent low-income family children from falling behind in their education.

"We'll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon", wrote Bezos. "Most important of those will be genuine, intense customer obsession". Since March 2016, Amazon customers have also been able to order items from the Mary's Place's wishlist on the site, such as diapers and socks. His net worth has risen about $65 billion this year alone as Amazon's shares surged.

Bezos asked for suggestions for philanthropic focuses in a tweet a year ago. He wrote that he wanted to help "people in the here and now - short term - at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact".

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Bezos's personal wealth has soared with the value of Amazon, whose stock price has doubled over the past year with its expansion into new sectors and geographies.

"The Bezos Family Foundation - and Jeff obviously has a role in that - has been engaged with early learning initiatives for years now", Burgess said, adding that it could only help the political momentum toward universal pre-K, as Seattle's preschool program is also once again on the ballot in November. Increasingly, the wealthy want to see their charitable giving put to work on immediate needs.

Bezos will hire an executive team to run those preschools as a nonprofit group, while the money to fight homelessness will mostly go to existing shelters.

Gates did not fully throw himself into philanthropy until he stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000.

He said he did not know how much money he would eventually give away. Zuckerberg's shares in the social network are now valued at about US$61 billion.

With a personal fortune of nearly $164 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Amazon chief executive officer had been largely invisible in the world of philanthropy. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post. Some activists and politicians have partly blamed the city's problems on Amazon.