Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon chief executive

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is to step down as chief executive of the e-commerce giant that he founded in his garage nearly 30 years ago.

He will become executive chairman, a move he said would give him “time and energy” to focus on his other ventures.

Mr Bezos, the world’s richest man, will be replaced by Andy Jassy, who currently leads Amazon’s cloud computing business.

The change will take place in the second half of 2021, the company said.

“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,” Mr Bezos said in an letter to Amazon staff on Tuesday.

“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,” he added.

‘Optimal time’

Mr Bezos, 57, has led Amazon since its start as an online bookshop in 1994. The firm now employs 1.3 million people globally, and saw its already explosive growth skyrocket last year, as the pandemic prompted a surge in online shopping.

The firm reported $386bn (£283bn) in sales in 2020, up 38% from 2019. Profits almost doubled, rising to $21.3bn.

In announcing the plans, Mr Bezos said he would continue to focus on new products and early initiatives.

“When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention,” he said. “Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

The shake-up comes as Mr Bezos has taken on an increasingly public profile. 

He has endured a public divorce, become a target for labour and inequality activists, and got involved in other businesses, such as space exploration firm Blue Origin and the Washington Post newspaper. 

Amazon also faces increasing scrutiny from regulators, who have questioned its monopoly power. And its dominance in cloud computing is being increasingly challenged by other tech firms, such as Microsoft and Alphabet, parent company of Google and YouTube.

Mr Bezos’s decision to hand over the day-to-day operation of the company came as a surprise. But investors appeared unfazed, with little change in the firm’s share price in after-hours trade.

Mr Jassy, a Harvard graduate, has been with Amazon since 1997 and helped develop Amazon Web Services, which has long been seen as the profit engine of the company.

“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,” Mr Bezos said.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, wrote on Twitter that the news was “huge” and showed how central cloud computing is to Amazon’s business.

But she added that she did not think Bezos was “done making an impact on the future of the company”.

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