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Quote of the Day


“When forced to choose between optimizing the appearance of our GAAP
accounting and maximizing the present value of future cash flows, we’ll take
the cash flows.”

-Jeff Bezos, in his first annual letter to shareholders. On this day in 1997, Amazon shares went public at $18 per share ($1.50 split-adjusted).


May 15th – This Day in Stock Market History

May 15th, 1911 – U.S. Supreme court orders Standard Oil to be dissolved.

New York Times coverage of the breakup of Standard Oil
New York Times coverage of the breakup of Standard Oil

The initial antitrust lawsuit was filed in 1906, and the case remained in the courts for 5 years until this day in 1911.

Just how dominating was Standard Oil? At its peak in 1904, Standard Oil controlled 91% of oil production and 85% of final sales in the United States. By 1911 its market share was down to 64%.


Visual Capitalist has a great timeline of the evolution of Standard Oil, from its breakup to its consolidation as of late:


Just how big would Standard Oil have become if it was not split? Adding up the market caps of Exxon, Chevron, BP and Marathon today gives you a total value of $768 billion, which would make it the third largest public company today.



May 15th, 1997 –  IPO of Amazon. The offering price for Amazon shares were $18 per share, Trading opened at $27 per share and the stock closed at $23.50 per share. A first day rise of 33%, which was low by the standards set by most IPO tech companies during the 90’s.

What did the company look like in 1997? Here is some initial metrics from the Wall Street Journal in March 1997:

“Last year, Amazon had sales of $15.7 million, up from just $511,000 in 1995 and nothing in 1994, the year it was founded, the filing disclosed. Average daily visits to the site have grown to about 50,000 in December, from 2,200 a year earlier.

However, the rapid growth in sales has yet to turn into profit, in part because of Amazon’s heavy investing in technology and marketing. The company had a loss of $5.8 million in 1996, widening from a loss of $303,000 the year earlier.”


Of course the rest is history. Amazon’s shares underwent 3 separate stock splits in 1998 and 1999, making 1 share purchased at the IPO equal to 12 shares today. So split adjusted to today, Amazon IPOed at $1.50 per share, Trading opened at $2.25 per share and Amazon closed its first day of trading at $1.95. Today one share is worth just a little bit more:


The company was on fire immediately out of the gate. During Amazon’s first year as a public company, revenue rose 883%:

“Amazon.com passed many milestones in 1997: by year-end, we had served more than 1.5 million customers, yielding 838% revenue growth to $147.8 million, and extended our market leadership despite aggressive competitive entry.”

Source: Jeff Bezos 1998 letter to shareholders.


Of course today Amazon is one of the largest publicly traded companies, with a value of nearly $800 billion. With hindsight we forget how hard it would have been to hold Amazon shares since its IPO.

The company’s shares fell 43% over the next 5 days, and the company’s stock price fell 93% after the tech bubble burst:


Source: Panic, Prosperity, and Progress: Five Centuries of History and the Markets


Best May 15th in Dow Jones Industrial Average History

1915 – Up 2.57%, 1.55 points.


Worst May 15th in Dow Jones Industrial Average History

1987 – Down 2.28%, 52.97 points.

Read of the Day – May 15th

Amazon has archived all of Jeff Bezos’ shareholder letters and annual reports on their website. His early letters are an incredible read. In his first letter, he outlines Amazon’s philosophy:


You can find a complete collection of Jeff Bezos’ shareholder letters here.