Bezos to step down after Amazon posts largest profits ever, while brick-and-mortar stores around the world go out of business due to government-enforced coronavirus lockdowns.
By Associated Press
Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as an online bookstore and built it into a shopping and entertainment behemoth, will step down later this year as CEO, a role he’s had for nearly 30 years, to become executive chairman, the company announced Tuesday.
The move arrives as reports based on an Oxfam study indicate that Bezos’ wealth grew by $90.1 billion during the global coronavirus pandemic, when governments around the world forced stores to close while online behemoth Amazon posted its largest profits ever.
Bezos, 57, will be replaced in the summer by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon’s cloud-computing business.
In a blog post to employees, Bezos said he planned to focus on new products and early initiatives being developed at Amazon. He said he would have more time for side projects, including his space exploration company Blue Origin, his philanthropic initiatives and overseeing The Washington Post, which he owns.
Bezos, who is the company’s biggest shareholder, will still have broad influence over Amazon.
“Jeff is really not going anywhere,” Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said in a call with reporters. “It’s more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”
During the pandemic, Amazon raked in a fortune, as governments shuttered malls and street shops around the world. On the same day Amazon announced Bezos would step down, the company reported making a record profit in the last three months of 2020, and its quarterly revenue shot past $100 billion for the first time.
Bezos’ riches have also swelled: His stake in Amazon is currently worth about $180 billion. For years he stayed behind the scenes, running the company. More recently, he sometimes stepped into the spotlight, showing up at movie premieres and Hollywood parties.
In 2019, he announced he was divorcing MacKenzie Scott, his wife of 26 years, in a tweet, just before the National Enquirer published a cover story saying Bezos had an affair with a former TV host. Scott received a stake in Amazon after the divorce worth nearly $40 billion at the time. She has pledged to give away half her fortune to charities.
As Amazon has grown, so has scrutiny. Amazon and other tech giants have enjoyed light-touch regulation and star status in Washington for decades, but calls for greater regulation are growing. A report by the House Judiciary Committee in October called for possibly breaking up Amazon and others, making it harder for them to acquire companies and imposing new rules to safeguard competition.
Bezos is one of the last founders of a big tech company to still be CEO. The founders of Google, Oracle and Microsoft have all stepped down from the top job of the companies they created. Facebook is still led by co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
“Amazon’s size makes some industries uncomfortable, some governments uncomfortable, and Andy Jassy will have to deal with the consequences,” Anderson said. “That will be some of the new era of his leadership.”