Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will step down as chief executive of the company he founded 27 years ago, the online retailer announced Tuesday. Andy Jassy, head of Amazon Web Services, will take the reins as CEO beginning in the third quarter, while Bezos will become executive chairman, Amazon said.

In a memo to employees posted on Amazon’s blog, Bezos, 57, said he is giving up the CEO role to focus on other ventures, including the Bezos Climate Fund, the Washington Post and Blue Origin, Bezos’ space flight company.

“We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal,” Bezos wrote, outlining a list of Amazon innovations: “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.” 

Bezos will still help steer Amazon

Retail experts said Mr. Bezos will continue to play an important role with Amazon even as he steps back from running the company day to day.

“While the new position is big news, the truth is that Mr. Bezos will remain fully involved with the company,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, said in note. “Indeed, as part of his new role Bezos will be able to focus more on new ideas — something in which he excels. He will also still be around to guide the company and ensure that it does not lose its innovative edge.”

The management shuffle comes as Amazon announced blockbuster earnings for 2020. A surge in online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic drove up the company’s sales 37%, to $386 billion, the company reported on Tuesday. Amazon added half a million new employees last year, highlighting the company’s explosive growth, and its profit nearly doubled to more than $21 billion.

Amazon’s stock has soared 60% from a year ago. That jump has boosted Bezos’ personal fortune, making him the second-wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $188 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

As head of AWS, Jassy helms an increasingly important part of Amazon’s business. The cloud-computing service made up just 12% of Amazon’s sales last year, but accounted for more than half of the company’s profit. AWS’ thousands of clients include Capital One, Coca-Cola, Intuit and Netflix. Jassy has been at Amazon since 1997, nearly as long as Bezos himself.

Aimee Picchi contributed to this report.

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