In an email to employees, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that in Q3 2021, he would step down as CEO and take up the role of Executive Chair of the Amazon Board, with Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy becoming CEO.
In the company’s early days, when we were living in Seattle, we joked that ordering from Amazon over the Internet was also shopping locally. In the intervening 26 years, Bezos has built Amazon into a tech giant mentioned in the same breath as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Some have called Amazon the “retailer of first resort,” a description that has become all the more trenchant as COVID-19 concerns have reduced the appeal of in-person shopping. But the fact is, even though Amazon receives (and deserves) its fair share of criticism, it also does an awfully good job of meeting customers’ needs. And AWS has become a tech juggernaut on its own, powering large swathes of the Internet and reporting $3.6 billion in profit on $12.7 billion in revenue in Q4 2020 alone.
The prime question (sorry) is if Andy Jassy will be able to guide Amazon to greater heights after the departure of Jeff Bezos, much as Tim Cook has done at Apple. And what about Bezos? Bill Gates left Microsoft to create the Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of over $46 billion and has rendered incalculable services to the world over the past 21 years. Bezos has irons in plenty of other fires as well, with the $2 billion Bezos Day 1 Fund that focuses on homelessness and preschools in low-income communities, the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund that issues grants to scientists and activists combating climate change, the spaceflight company Blue Origin, and The Washington Post newspaper. He may no longer be CEO of Amazon, but we’re far from hearing the last of Jeff Bezos.