On Tuesday, the tech world was hit with the somewhat stunning announcement that founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, would be stepping away from his long held leadership position . Bezos has been CEO since its founding in 1994, and was undeniably instrumental in helping it grow into one of the most successful corporations in history
The news of a leadership change comes at a particularly interesting time, seeing that the company is currently experiencing unprecedented success. As of February 2021, Amazon currently has a market cap of roughly $1.6 trillion, making it one of the most valuable publicly-traded businesses on the planet. In 2019 alone, the company reported $280.5 billion in revenues and a record $11.5 billion in net profit. Amazon has absolutely dominated the retail and cloud computing space over the past year due to the ongoing pandemic. Online shopping and remote working have never experienced such a boom, and Amazon’s polished business model proved to be exactly what consumers needed at the right time.
After a transition period that will take place over the next few months, longtime Amazon employee and current CEO of AWS, Andy Jassy, will become the new CEO of Amazon. Jassy has been with the company since 1997 and heavily contributed to the success of Amazon’s cloud services, which now account for roughly 60% of the company’s operating profit. Electing Jassy as the new CEO has given rise to speculation that Amazon may move toward rebranding as a technology company instead of a retailer. This would make sense, as Amazon’s cloud infrastructure services account for 33% of the $110 billion cloud market. Now that remote and cloud capabilities are becoming absolutely critical for businesses in 2021, Jassy may push for a greater focus on Amazon’s digital services.
In some ways it does seem unusual that Bezos would want to step away from the CEO role, but makes much more sense when considering the number of other endeavours he is running simultaneously. Freeing himself from the position will give him the best of both worlds, by remaining close to Amazon and also allowing more focus on other opportunities. This is not such an uncommon practice among other large tech companies. Google founders Larry Page and Sergyy Brin made a similar decision in 2015 when they moved to Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Microsoft founder Bill Gates left his company in 2000 to focus on The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Both of these internet giants continued to be incredibly profitable even after their founding members stepped away from public leadership positions.
By switching to the Executive Chair role, Bezos will still have major input in long-term business decisions, but a less active role in the day-to-day operations. This will allow Bezos to focus on the growing number of side projects he’s involved with, such as The Washington Post and Blue Origin, both of which are owned by Bezos. He also plans to focus his attention on two phiantropric organizations, the Day 1 Fund and the Bezos Earth Fund. Even though Bezos will be moving his attention to other projects, his presence at Amazon will still be significant.
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