Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Gone but not really: Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO

Jeff Bezos will become executive chairman of Amazon in the second half of 2021, once he has stepped down from his position as chief executive. He justified his move by saying that he wanted to focus his “time and energy” on other projects such as the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, and The Washington Post.

Bezos’ decision to step down came as a surprise to many across the financial world – though it seems the impact of the manoeuvre will be limited. His chief executive role has been “consuming”, and he has found it “hard to put attention on anything else”, but the 57-year-old tycoon’s new role will still be a heavily-involved one – staying engaged in “important Amazon initiatives”.

The transition will take place in the second half of this year, with Andy Jassy taking over the CEO responsibilities. Jassy currently leads the cloud computing business in Amazon and helped develop Amazon Web Services. He has been with the company since 1997.

Amazon’s staggering $386 billion in sales in 2020 was 38% more than 2019

Though the pandemic has been devastating for many, Amazon found themselves pocketing a nice profit. With in-person shopping less viable and more time and idle finances, the online shopping scene has erupted, with Amazon being one of the largest benefactors. Amazon’s staggering $386 billion in sales in 2020 was 38% more than 2019.

With the recent successes of Amazon, the company has been increasingly under media spotlight and, by extension, so has Bezos. Forbes’ list currently ranks Bezos as the richest individual in the world, with a net worth of $195.9 billion (just under $10 billion more than Tesla and SpaceX owner, Elon Musk). From being largely unknown outside of the business world, Bezos’ recent surge in publicity has been celebrity-esque – his well-documented public divorce being just one of the many media intrusions on his private life.

Perhaps moving away from the day-to-day running of Amazon will be an opportunity for Bezos to step out the limelight, though it seems unlikely given the number of labour and human rights activists on his case. Amazon currently face battles against union recognition as well as investigations into its competition practices from the US government and European Commission. These battles will be monumental, and, if lost, the company could lose much of its dominance over the market.

Altering his attention to other projects may be a way to mend his social legacy

Therefore, Bezos’ change of scenery seems somewhat timely. Altering his attention to other projects may be a way to mend his social legacy. Bezos and Amazon have been constantly under fire for a lack of any government restriction or taxation on income. The Bezos Earth Fund and Blue Origin, though valuable and well-founded, should be viewed sceptically as many take the opinion that these are just profile-mending projects for Bezos.

Perhaps that’s a harsh view though. For many, Bezos’ visionary character means that a move away from Amazon was inevitable. With Amazon being a huge time investment, Bezos’ other ambitions had to be placed aside, but now, with less Amazon work in his life, he will have the opportunity to “build a road to space” and make more developments with The Washington Post. He also strives to be the first man on Mars, with his Blue Origin project, and he recently spoke with President Emmanuel Macron about his climate pledge.

Originally an online bookshop, Amazon was set up in 1994 and has been a success ever since. With Andy Jassy taking the reins, the company continues to stay ahead of its competitors. Though Bezos’ move will not affect the company largely, it is a statement of the direction of the company more than anything else.

They own more than half of the world’s public cloud infrastructure market and possess 30% market share of the cloud computing market

A juggernaut in the cloud business industry, Jassy’s appointment as chief executive is a sign of Amazon moving with the time. As their online market blossoms, the company will be able to keep capitalising on the evolution of online shopping. In truth, the company had been trending this way for a long time – they own more than half of the world’s public cloud infrastructure market and possess 30% market share of the cloud computing market. Though Jassy will be taking control of Amazon’s day-to-day running, Bezos is certainly not out of the frame. He will still have a large influence on Amazon’s new initiatives.

The change in Amazon is essentially seamless. It feels more like an opportunity for Bezos to expand his vast empire as opposed to a real change for Amazon. This was reflected in the stocks on Wednesday, with Amazon seeing little change as its stockholders continue to maintain faith in the ever-expanding retailer.

There is no doubt that Amazon will cope with the change easily, with Bezos expressing his full faith in Jassy: “Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader.”

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