Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as an online bookseller nearly three decades ago, will step down as the CEO of the USD 1.7 trillion global e-commerce giant and will become the executive chairman, a move he said would give him “time and energy” to focus on his other ventures and passions.
Amazon, which announced on Wednesday that 2020 net sales increased 38 per cent to USD 386.1 billion, compared with USD 280.5 billion in 2019, said Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chair in the third quarter of 2021 and Andy Jassy, CEO of the company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services, will become CEO at that time.
Bezos has been Amazon’s CEO since its founding in 1995. He oversaw its growth from an online bookseller into a USD 1.7 trillion global retail and logistics giant, which has also made the 57-year-old into one of the world’s richest persons.
“Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal,” Bezos said, adding that the company pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalised 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 do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition,” he said in a statement.
In a letter to Amazonians, Bezos said he will transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board, a role in which he said he intends to focus his energies and attention on new products and early initiatives.
Jassy, 53, who is “well known” inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as Bezos has, “will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”
Jassy had joined Amazon in 1997 and has led the Amazon’s Web Services cloud team since its inception.
Bezos said while being the CEO of Amazon is a “deep responsibility”, it’s consuming and with that responsibility, it is “hard” to give attention on anything else.
As Executive Chair, Bezos said he will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy he needs to focus on initiatives such as the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and his other passions.
“I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organisations can have.”
Bezos said the journey of Amazon began some 27 years ago when the company “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, the online retail giant employs 1.3 million people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and is widely recognised as one of the most successful companies in the world, he said.
“How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success,” he said, adding that he does not know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon’s, and he believes Amazon is at its most inventive right now.
Bezos highlighted that as the company grew, it decided to use its scale and scope to lead on important social issues such as the USD 15 minimum wage and the climate pledge.
Describing his work as “meaningful and fun”, Bezos said he is excited about this transition at a time when millions of customers depend on Amazon for its services, and more than a million employees depend on it for their livelihoods.
Bezos noted that the company serves individuals and enterprises, and has 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,” he said, calling on his employees to “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.”
Amazon’s net sales increased 44 per cent to USD 125.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to USD 87.4 billion in the year-ago period. Its net income increased to USD 7.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020 as compared to USD 3.3 billion in the corresponding quarter in 2019.
For the full year 2020, Amazon’s net sales increased 38 per cent to USD 386.1 billion while net income rose to USD 21.3 billion from the previous year. International revenues grew over 57 per cent to USD 37.4 billion in the December quarter, and was at over USD 104 billion for 2020.
During an investor call, Amazo’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said the company has made investments in geographies like India and that its international business has been benefiting from higher volumes.
While Amazon has — on a number of occasions — highlighted the importance of the Indian market, it is currently locked in a bitter battle with Future. Amazon had invested in one of Future Group’s entities. It has dragged Future Group to arbitration at Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), arguing that Future violated their contract by entering into a deal with rival Reliance.