Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO

The founder will become executive chair of the Amazon board and shift focus to "new products and early initiatives"

Jeff Bezos laughing at an event

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, will step down as the company's CEO later in the year after almost 30-years at the helm.

Bezos will become the firm's executive chair and the move will give him the "time and energy" to focus on other ventures, such as space exploration company Blue Origin, fighting against climate change, and overseeing the Washington Post, the newspaper he owns.

He will be replaced by Andy Jassy, who has been at the company since 1997 and is currently serving as CEO of Amazon's cloud computing arm AWS. The announcement was made to Amazon employees via an internal letter.

"I'm excited to announce that this Q3 I'll transition to executive chair of the Amazon board and Andy Jassy will become CEO," Bezos wrote. "In the exec chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives.

"Andy [Jassy] 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."

Some have questioned the timing of the move, with the majority of the world still living under COVID restrictions.  "Every founder, no matter how successful, must eventually hand over the reins and Bezos has curiously chosen the middle of a pandemic to do it," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey. "Perhaps he had this transition planned earlier and delayed it due to the pandemic or perhaps he realises that whoever leads the company past the pandemic will rightfully be seen as the leader for Amazon's next phase."

Whatever the reason for his departure, Bezos is leaving the company in good health. The firm's fourth-quarter revenues broke the $100 billion mark for the first time, with the company raking in $125.5 billion between October and December 2020

Bezos and Amazon have both gained wealth during the pandemic, as more consumers and businesses used its services for retail, e-commerce and cloud computing. The company's growth runs alongside one of the biggest financial crises of the last 30 years.

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Amazon was founded by Bezos in 1994 and went public three years later, shortly before the burst of the bubble. As one of the few internet-based businesses to survive, it went from strength to strength, continuing to gain market share and revenue throughout the 2008 financial crisis and beyond.  

"This journey began some 27 years ago," Bezos said in his letter. "Amazon 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."

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