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Barron’s has a story about Amazon’s succession plan, which some experts say may be a bigger concern than before because of all the public tumult being created by founder/CEO Jeff Bezos’ personal life (his pending divorce from his wife of 25 years, the revelations about an extramarital affair, and his subsequent accusations that the National Enquirer tried to extort and blackmail him).

“Regardless of where the story leads,” Barron’s writes, “it is drawing on Bezos’ limited time and that raises the question of who else is minding the shop at Amazon. Like any big public company, investors should know about Amazon’s succession plan … Barron’s asked three corporate-management experts to assess the situation. All agreed that Bezos has initially handled the situation well by making it public and taking control of the narrative, but they say that he needs to find a quick solution to the drama or a way to extricate himself from the daily headlines. If the story festers, they say that the conversation could evolve to include Amazon succession plans.”

The consensus seems to be that Amazon does have bench strength, personified by “Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke likely next in line, followed by Andrew Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services. Wilke joined Amazon in 1999 and Jassy has been with the company since 1997.”

However, the suggestion is that Amazon needs to provide some guidance around its succession plans, in the same way that Apple did in 2011 when it made clear that COO Tim Cook was heir apparent to Steve Jobs, its iconic CEO who was battling cancer. (Jobs died later that year.)
KC's View:
The Apple scenario is both the model for how to communicate succession plans as well as kind of Amazon’s worst nightmare … since Tim Cook will forever be battling Job’s ghost in terms of Apple’s ability to create innovative and disruptive products. Fairly or not, a lot of us wonder how Apple would be different today had Steve Jobs not gotten sick.

Forget all the soap opera stuff. What happens if Jeff Bezos gets hit by a bus? For a company the size of Amazon, with so much investor money tied up in its distinct view of the world, it seems to me that it is entirely fair to ask what Plan B is.