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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Steps Down as CEO

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Adriana Lee
·5 min read
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Amazon chief executive officer and founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of the e-commerce juggernaut, effective in the third quarter of 2021, the company said Tuesday. Bezos will become executive chair of the company’s board, with Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy stepping in to run the retail and tech empire.

The current Amazon CEO informed staffers about the change in a letter to employees.

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“I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to executive chair of the Amazon board and Andy Jassy will become CEO,” Bezos wrote. “In the exec chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”

Bezos plans to remain involved in key Amazon projects, but wants to spend more time on his other initiatives, including the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin spaceship company, The Washington Post and the Amazon Day 1 Fund.

Bezos has been the face of Amazon since its founding in 1994, taking it from e-commerce bookstore to a massive international online retailer of digital and physical goods in practically all sectors — from home goods and apparel to vehicles and tiny homes. The company’s tech development has birthed an array of devices, including the Amazon Echo, which is largely credited with setting off today’s tech race for dominance in voice assistants and smart speakers.

Under Bezos, Amazon broke $1 trillion in market capitalization in January 2020 and has since made even more gains during the coronavirus pandemic — which has sent consumers surging to online channels. The company is worth more than $1.6 trillion, and investors are awaiting the latest numbers from Amazon’s fourth-quarter earnings report, due after the market close on Tuesday.

The news broke roughly an hour before the earnings call is set to take place.

As for the new CEO, Jassy has been with Amazon since 1997 and has steered its AWS cloud division since its inception.

Bezos’ letter to employees follows, in full:

Fellow Amazonians:

I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO. In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.

This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name. The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, “What’s the internet?” Blessedly, I haven’t had to explain that in a long while.

Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.

How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.

I don’t know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon’s, and I believe we are at our most inventive right now. I hope you are as proud of our inventiveness as I am. I think you should be.

As Amazon became large, we decided to use our scale and scope to lead on important social issues. Two high-impact examples: our $15 minimum wage and the Climate Pledge. In both cases, we staked out leadership positions and then asked others to come along with us. In both cases, it’s working. Other large companies are coming our way. I hope you’re proud of that as well.

I find my work meaningful and fun. I get to work with the smartest, most talented, most ingenious teammates. When times have been good, you’ve been humble. When times have been tough, you’ve been strong and supportive, and we’ve made each other laugh. It is a joy to work on this team.

As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. 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. I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.

Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future. We are firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to. We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish. We serve individuals and enterprises, and we’ve pioneered two complete industries and a whole new class of devices. We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian’s idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we’re flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.

Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.

Jeff