Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has officially stepped down as the company’s chief executive, handing that role over to Andy Jassy, in order to focus on “new products and early initiatives”.
With a total net worth of $203bn (£146bn) according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the 57-year-old is now expected to devote more of his time to a handful of personal projects.
Among the most immediate adventures for Mr Bezos is a launch with his private spaceflight company Blue Origin, scheduled for 20 July, on which he will be joined by his brother, Mark; a mystery customer who paid $28m (£20m) for the seat in an auction; and 82-year-old Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk.
The Amazon founder also said he would be investing more of his time (and one expects, wealth) in fighting climate change and overseeing The Washington Post, the newspaper he owns.
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How much power is Bezos really giving up?
Bezos may be leaving his current role at the company – and on the 27th anniversary of when it was founded – but isn’t leaving Amazon itself.
Instead he’s transitioning to the role of executive chair – functioning as a kind of strategic adviser to the CEO. The transition from CEO to executive chair has happened before, when Bill Gates was leaving Microsoft, and Eric Schmidt leaving Google, and has been called the apprenticeship model of corporate succession.
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Amazon’s profits more than tripled in the first three months of 2021
As Amazon’s chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky told reporters: “Jeff is not really going anywhere. It’s more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”
Bezos also retains just over 10% of all of Amazon’s shares, making him the single largest shareholder and securing his ability to shape the decisions of the new CEO, especially when they disagree about the firm’s strategic direction.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, explained: “The fact he is stepping down as chief executive of Amazon doesn’t mean he is disappearing; far from it as he is becoming executive chairman.
“The chairman’s role is to keep the chief executive in order, so Bezos will still be engrained in the business and be able to provide guidance on a range of strategic issues.
“He is also a major shareholder which gives him considerable influence on how the business is run.”
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Who is he being replaced by?
Andy Jassy is now Amazon’s chief executive.
He joined the company in 1997 and has led its cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), since 2003.
AWS has been huge success for the business, today contributing roughly 42% of Amazon’s total profits, and was instrumental in moving the company from online commerce into enterprise technology.
It put Amazon into direct competition with technology giants including Microsoft, Google, and Oracle, and cemented the company’s place in the infrastructure of the internet.
AWS has stressed its “low-margin, high-volume” business model when acquiring customers, and now provides the hardware supporting cloud services for massive streaming companies including Spotify and Netflix, as well as large parts of the UK civil service and even the US Central Intelligence Agency.
He has also been more outspoken than Bezos on some of the most divisive issues in America, tweeting about the death of Breonna Taylor last year: “We still don’t get it in the US. If you don’t hold police depts accountable for murdering black people, we will never have justice and change, or be the country we aspire (and claim) to be.”