Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon, becoming executive chairman of the company he conceived 27 years ago on a road trip to Seattle, and built into one of the world’s most valuable companies.
Bezos will make the transition in the third quarter of this year, when he will be replaced as CEO by longtime lieutenant Andy Jassy, who made his mark as the leader of Amazon’s fast-growing cloud business, the company announced Tuesday afternoon.
In an email to Amazon employees announcing the news, Bezos said he’ll spend more time focusing on new products and early initiatives.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Speaking with reporters and analysts, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky sought to give a sense of continuity, saying Bezos will continue to have “fingerprints on a lot of areas of product development and innovation.”
“Jeff is really not going anywhere,” Olsavsky said. “It’s more restructuring of who’s doing what.”
The company will especially use Bezos’ horsepower on “one-way doors,” the finance chief said, using the company’s language for major decisions that are not easily reversed or changed.
Olsavsky said “Andy has a chance to put his imprint on Amazon.”
“Andy of course brings his own skill set,” Olsavsky said. “He’s a visionary leader in his own right, a great operator; he understands what makes Amazon such a special, innovative place. So we’re expecting a lot of continuity.”
He added, “We certainly have a transition to make on the AWS business, but we expect that will be handled well, as well. And we’ll look forward to this new leadership profile we have.”
Olsavsky said the company did not have any details to share in regard to a replacement for Jassy.
Jassy, who joined Amazon in 1997, has been a leading candidate to succeed Bezos as CEO. Jeff Wilke, another longtime Amazon exec who led the company’s Worldwide Consumer business, was another potential successor but Wilke said in August that he was leaving Amazon and retiring this quarter.
Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon, called Jassy “the absolute best person to lead the company.”
Bezos’ net worth has grown to more than $180 billion. Amazon has surged amid the pandemic and reported a record holiday quarter Tuesday with $125.6 billion in revenue. Bezos is the company’s largest individual shareholder.
Here’s an official statement from Bezos, who just turned 57 years old in January:
“Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make 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 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.”