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TheStreet Open House

Amazon's Bezos Enters His Bond Villain Stage

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Celebrity can be a useful tool for a CEO. It can spread fear, uncertainty and doubt into the hearts of competitors, and make the CEO's company look even bigger than it is.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com  (AMZN), has used 2013 to seize on his celebrity and, like Sam Walton of Wal-Mart  (WMT) in the 1980s, Bill Gates of Microsoft  (MSFT) in the 1990s, and Steve Jobs of Apple  (AAPL) during the last decade, fill the public imagination in what I call the "Bond Villain" stage of his career.

It's the kind of role singer, actor and sausage magnate Jimmy Dean played in the 1971 Bond film Diamonds are Forever, as Willard Whyte (no relation to Walter White of Breaking Bad). The immense capability of Whyte's money made the audience wonder, through most of the film, whether he was a good guy or a bad guy.

In Bezos' case, this means revealing to CBS' "60 Minutes" a plan to ship packages via drones.

Bezos calls them Octoropters, and while they sound cool they're very limited, carrying just five pounds over 10 miles. By the end of the year the company should have 96 warehouses around the world, but few people live within 10 miles
of an Amazon warehouse.

[Read: Amazon's Drones Set to Take Out UPS, FedEx]

Other companies are experimenting with drones, but when Bezos describes it, alongside plans for Sunday delivery of some packages through the U.S. Postal Service, it suddenly starts sounding practical. 

Like Walton, Gates, and Jobs, Bezos has also gotten his own hagiography. Titled The Everything Store, it describes his giving managers the book The Black Swan, which pushes the idea of improbable events creating enormous change.

Adding to the "Bond villain" allure of Bezos' handsome bald head is his purchase earlier this year of The Washington Post for $250 million. The newspaper is losing about $100 million a year. At that rate, as in the movie Citizen Kane, Bezos might have to sell it ... in 700 years.

For many companies, from booksellers to PC makers, Amazon itself has been a "black swan" event. For many viewers, last night's interview may have been their first introduction to Amazon Web Services, Amazon's cloud rental service.

[Read: Amazon Cuts Kindle Fire Prices for Cyber Monday]

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