Jeff Bezos to Step Down as Amazon CEO This Year

The most high-profile CEO in the world will pare back his role at Amazon to focus on other ventures, including Blue Origin.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will step down as the eCommerce giant’s CEO by the end of the year, allowing him more “time and energy” to focus on his other ventures.

While he will depart the CEO position, Bezos will remain executive chair of Amazon. Andy Jassy, chief executive of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and long seen as Bezos’s heir apparent, will take over as head of the company.

Bezos outlined his intentions in an email sent to Amazon staff on Tuesday. “Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” he wrote. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.”

“As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.”

Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as a and built it into one of the world’s largest companies, in the process minting himself as the world’s richest man with a fortune of more than $185 billion. Amazon now accounts for 50% of all eCommerce in America and last year reported a record-breaking quarterly revenue of $125.56 billion.

Though the company is most widely known for its online storefront, AWS has become Amazon’s biggest money-maker, accounting for 10% of its sales in the last quarter and 52% of its profits.

During 2020, Amazon faced growing pressure from employees to create safer and more equitable workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also came under greater regulatory scrutiny, with the EU launching an antitrust lawsuit against the company and the US House of Representatives accusing it of having “monopoly power”.

Industry observers were caught off guard by Bezos’s Tuesday announcement. This was a surprise, and I don’t think many in retail expected this to happen this quickly,” remarked Sucharita Kodali, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. Bezos is still relatively young for a CEO and I do wonder if the pressure of the government investigations, which a PR team cannot change, played a role in this decision at this time. His letter seemed to say that he does want to focus on innovation, which seems to be his passion.”

“I am intrigued by what this means for retail. The new CEO is someone who is responsible for and is the father of the AWS business, for all intents and purposes. Does this mean that its full-steam ahead for cloud and advertising, while retail is more of a “maintenance” not growth business?  It could actually be really good news for retail but we won’t know the answer to that for months, if not years.”

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