Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced decision to step down as CEO

by Jonathan Adams

30 years after starting the ecommerce and cloud computing colossus from a garage, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos yesterday announced his decision to step down from his role as CEO of the company. He will be succeeded by Andy Jassy, the company’s current head of cloud computing, who heads up Amazon’s quickly growing AWS business. AWS is the global market leader in cloud infrastructure-as-a-service.

Bezos will go out on a high after the Amazon share price grew by almost 70% over the past 12 months. The company’s core ecommerce business and cloud computing service have both benefitted hugely from the acceleration towards a more digital economy over the course of the coronavirus crisis.

Amazon also has interests in online groceries, pharmaceuticals, driverless vehicles technology and is reportedly preparing to launch its own commercial courier service.

amazon inc

57-year-old Bezos, who originally founded Amazon in 1994 as an online bookseller will stay on in an advisory role as executive chairman. The transition will take place during the third quarter of this year. He commented that he believes now represents the “optimal time”, for the company to transition to a new chief executive.

The announcement was made during Amazon’s quarterly report to Wall Street, which revealed a record quarter for both sales and profits. 2020’s final quarter saw revenues rise 44% year-on-year to $125.6 billion. That 3-month total was also the first to come in at above $100 billion. Profits more than doubled to $7.2 billion over the period.

Bezos, however, insists his move into a new role and handing over the day-to-day responsibilities of chief executive “isn’t about retiring”. He sees it as creating more time for him to devote to other projects.

Markets accepted the announcement calmly, with the line-of-succession to Mr Jassy clearly considered a sensible one. Amazon’s valuation gained 2.25% in afterhours trading. The company is worth over $1.7 trillion.

Bezos described the 53-year-old Jassy as an “outstanding leader”, while explaining his decision to the company’s staff. One of the biggest companies in the world, Amazon employs 40,000 in the UK. However, to maintain its dominant position, Bezos believes the company has to continue to “invent”, commenting:

“When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

Bezos intends to devote the freed-up time stepping down as chief executive will give him to driving Amazon’s future invention.

Mr Jassy, who was educated at Harvard Business School, has been with Amazon since its early days, joining the company in 1997. He’s led the AWS cloud computing business since it was established in the early 2000s. He has a similar reputation for perfectionism as his long-time boss, last autumn telling the Silicon Angle website:

“Any time we’re not statistically indistinguishable from perfect, we’re going to be unhappy.”

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