Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is stepping down as CEO of the world’s largest internet business. Amazon got into the web business as a book seller. It has since expanded to a 1.3 million-employee, $386 billion in 2020 revenue, with a market capitalization of about $1.7 trillion.
Bezos’ personal net worth has added a new term in describing rich people: He’s a “centibillionaire.” He has leapt ahead of his nearest rival, Elon Musk, with a net worth of over $182 billion. Bezo’s ex-wife, MacKenzie, moved into third place after a $35 billion divorce settlement — the largest ever since Jocelyn Wildenstein got $3.8 billion from her art dealer ex-husband Alec Wildenstein.
Even though Bezos is relinquishing the helm of Amazon, he’s not really planning to head for early retirement. His replacement is long-time Amazon executive Andy Jassy, who gets to take over some of the nuts-and-bolts headaches and dodging anti-trust threats. Bezos’ new rule will be as the Amazon executive chairman. He will be a board leader who will stay involved in key operational decisions—the big picture.
According to Amazon’s CFO Brian Olsavasky, the shift is “more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”
What Bezos was doing before he decided to shuffle seats in the board room was apparently not much to his liking. Said Bezos in an email to his employees, “Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming…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.”
Usually when there is a change in top corporate leadership, investors get a bit skittish. However, no one bailed, preferring instead to focus on the companies continuing blockbuster earnings. In fact, Amazon’s stock moved up slightly.
The new CEO Andy Jassy may look to forge his own legacy, and an enormously famous and successful founder like Bezos will undoubtedly cast a long shadow. The sheer size and breadth of Amazon makes it a prime target for rivals and many governments, who are uncomfortable with how Amazon has grown from selling books to just about everything else in its giant warehouses.
Amazon has been under pressure from some critics — political and otherwise — who accuse the company of mistreating many of its 1.3 million employees. Amazon warehouse workers, for example, are paid far less than tech engineers.
One of Amazon’s leading critics is Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a Washington, DC activist group. Said Weissman, “Jeff Bezos’ departure as CEO is a chance for Amazon to turn over a new leaf. It should start by paying all its workers a living wage and ensuring they have safe and healthy working conditions.
So, Bezos appears to have chosen a qualified successor. Jassy helped build Amazon’s web services division and according to one analyst, “His challenge is translating that (success) to the broader e-commerce platform.”