Today, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to step down as chief executive of the e-commerce, logistics and cloud computing mega-power, handing over his previous title to Andy Jassy.
This ends a more than two-decade run as CEO of Amazon. Bezos has led the company from its humble origins as an online bookseller to its place now as a $1.75-trillion global retail, logistics and internet leviathan.
In February, Amazon announced that Bezos would begin to transition from CEO to executive chair due to Bezos’ intentions of spending “more time on his other ventures” – including the Washington Post, his space company Blue Origin, and his philanthropy.
Bezos is still, however, expected to have “tremendous” influence at Amazon even as he steps back into a less public role. Bezos is still Amazon’s largest individual chairholder and leader of its board of directors.
“He’ll likely still stay involved, though no longer focusing on the day-to-day and instead able to focus on company-wide initiatives and new products and services,” said Daniel Elman, global technology analyst at market research firm Nucleus Research, quoted by CNN.
“His skills for cutting through noise identifying high-value opportunities cannot be overstated … so it would make sense for Amazon to free him from the operational grind to maximize those areas,” Elman continues.
He is also a longtime mentor of the new incumbent CEO.
Who is Andy Jassy?
Jassy is an accomplished executive at Amazon as well, according to CNN. He is responsible for growing Amazon’s cloud services, Amazon Web Services (AWS) from its inception into a $45-billion business and the company’s biggest moneymaker.
Jassy’s appointment as Amazon CEO and his track record with Cloud Computing at the company could be an indication that Amazon is patterning itself after Microsoft’s success with the Cloud. Microsoft recently earned a $2-trillion valuation, bolstered by Azure’s cloud solutions.
Microsoft’s current CEO and Chair of the Board, Satya Nadella, was previously head of Microsoft’s Cloud offerings before being promoted to CEO after Bill Gates dropped the title in 2014.
A Critical Time for Amazon
The exit of the richest man on Earth as Amazon’s CEO comes at a crucial crossroads for the company. Amazon emerged from the pandemic better than how it went. The pandemic’s effects have led to a massive demand for its services, leading to surges in profits and in hiring.
However, the company’s rampant growth following COVID-19 has caught the attention of regulators, some believing that Amazon has “gotten too big”. The company has also recently been under fire for its labour practices, especially in its production and logistics facilities, as well as its treatment of warehouse employees.
“Bezos needs to stop being the lightning rod” on the issue of Amazon’s labour practices, said William Klepper, professor of management at Columbia Business School, “…and instead innovate his way out of this.”
The timing of Bezos’ transition could be a means to also navigate any negative criticism for Amazon’s controversies. Other Silicon Valley founders have recently been giving up their CEO titles to lose the harsh critical spotlight but not necessarily all of their power.
In 2019, for example, Google’s co-founders gave up their executive titles amid mounting regulatory scrutiny of the company, but they remain on the board and hold a special class of stock that gives them voting control as shareholders.