Amazon’s Jeff Bezos stepping down nearly 30 years after founding company

Amazon said Tuesday that Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO later this year, a role he’s had since he founded the company nearly 30 years ago.

Amazon said he’ll be replaced in the fall by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon’s cloud business. Bezos, 57, will then become the company’s executive chairman.

Bezos, who started the company 27 years ago as an internet bookseller, said in a note to employees posted on Amazon’s website, “As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.”

He added, “I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring.”

Launched in 1995, Amazon was a pioneer of fast and free shipping that won over millions of shoppers who used the site to buy diapers, TVs and just about anything.

Andy Jassy, seen here in October 2016, will take over as CEO of Amazon.  (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Started online retail business but not sure what to sell 

Under Bezos, Amazon also launched the first e-reader that gained mass acceptance, and its Echo listening device made voice assistants a more common sight in many living rooms.

As a child, Bezos was intrigued by computers and interested in building things, such as alarms he rigged in his parents’ home. He got a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton University and then worked at several Wall Street companies.

He quit his job at D.E. Shaw to start an online retail business — though at first he wasn’t sure what to sell. Bezos quickly determined that an online bookstore would resonate with consumers. He and his wife, MacKenzie, whom he met at D.E. Shaw and married in 1993, set out on a road trip to Seattle — a city chosen for its abundance of tech talent and proximity to a large book distributor in Roseburg, Ore.

While MacKenzie drove, Bezos wrote up the business plan for what would become Amazon.com. Bezos convinced his parents and some friends to invest in the idea, and Amazon began operating out of the couple’s Seattle garage on July 16, 1995.

Bezos wrote up the business plan for Amazon while on a road trip with his wife at the time, MacKenzie. (Patrick McMullan via Getty Image)

Pandemic translated into big business for Amazon

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., consumers have turned increasingly to Amazon for delivery of home staples and medical supplies. Brick-and-mortar shops closed their doors, while Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, instead recruited over 400,000 more workers and posted consecutive record profits.

With its warehouses open, Amazon had another record holiday, beating estimates for online store sales, subscription sales, third-party service sales such as warehousing and other sales to merchants on its platform.

The company reported its third-consecutive record profit on Tuesday, and quarterly sales above $100 billion US for the first time.

Andy Jassy’s Amazon Web Services (AWS), traditionally a bright spot, fell slightly short of expectations. While the cloud computing division announced deals in the quarter with ViacomCBS, the BMW Group and others, it posted revenue of $12.7 billion US, short of the $12.8 billion analysts had estimated.

A boost in revenue came from moving Amazon’s marketing event Prime Day — usually in July — to October, lengthening the holiday shopping season.

Amazon is one of the last of the tech giants to have a founder as CEO. Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, relinquished their executive positions in parent company Alphabet in 2019. Oracle’s Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO in 2014.

Bill Gates was Microsoft’s CEO until 2000, kept a day-to-day role at the company until 2008 and served as its chairman until 2014. Gates left the board entirely last year to focus on philanthropy.

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