Jeff Bezos, the man who founded Amazon back in 1995 and became one of the world’s richest men as a result, is to step down as CEO later this year.

The news was revealed when Amazon posted its fourth quarter financial results, and Bezos confirmed the news in a separate letter to Amazon staff.

57 year old Bezos founded the firm on 5 July 1994 and launched it on 16 July 1995, after he had left his job at a Wall Street firm in New York and moved to Seattle on the other side of the United States.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos

Stepping down

Bezos initially called his company Cadabra. But months later he changed the name to Amazon.com after a lawyer reportedly misheard its original name as ‘cadaver’.

Amazon itself began life in the garage of Bezos, where it initially sold very old technology, namely paper-based books, before branching out into other sectors exploiting the founder’s fascination with the Internet.

Want to know more? Read Silicon UK’s Tales in Tech History, about how Amazon transformed itself from an online retailer of books into a global e-commerce powerhouse.

But now 27 years later Bezos confirmed he will step down as CEO in Q3 2021, and will be replaced by Amazon veteran Andy Jassy, who is currently heads Amazon’s cloud computing business (AWS).

“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 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.”

“Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world,” added Bezos.

Amazon is the second largest employer in the United States (behind Walmart).

Bezos pointed out that Amazon’s success was down in large part to constant invention.

“Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” noted Bezos. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. 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 organisations can have.”

Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s richest men, with a personal fortune thought to be around $196 billion.

In 2018 Amazon reached the milestone of achieving a market valuation of $1 trillion. The e-commerce giant is currently worth $1.69 trillion.

Personal life

The personal life of Bezos has also made headlines around the world.

In 2019 he went through a high profile divorce, and Bezos went public and accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail”, after it threatened to publish naked selfies of Bezos.

In early 2020 Bezos was at the centre of headlines again when it was alleged that his phone had been hacked by very senior officials from Saudi Arabia back in 2018.

In October 2018, months after Bezos phone was reportedly hacked, one of the Washinton Post’s journalists (Jamal Khashoggi) was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by agents of the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia at the time denied that its crown prince was responsible for hacking Jeff Bezos’ phone, calling the allegations “absurd”.

Q4 earnings

The news about Bezos overshadowed what was another stunning financial performance from Amazon, as its AWS cloud unit continues to prosper and its e-commerce retail operation benefited from people remote working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon posted a fourth quarter net profit of $7.2 billion – nearly double the $3.7 billion Wall Street predicted and more than double the $3.3 billion in income the company earned in the year-ago quarter.

Quarterly revenues reached $125.6 billion, up 44 percent from the same period in the prior year and well ahead of the $119.7 billion Wall Street analysts had projected.

For the full year, Amazon posted a net profit up 84 percent at $21.3 billion.

Full year revenues rose 38 percent to $386.1 billion, more than $6 billion more than analysts had projected.

“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” said Bezos. “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,” Bezos added. “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.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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