Published on: February 2, 2021
Amazon announced this afternoon that its founder, Jeff Bezos, will step down from the CEO role and become executive chairman. He will be succeeded by Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The transition will take place in the third quarter of this year.
In his letter to Amazon's employees, Bezos wrote:
I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO. 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.
This journey began some 27 years ago. 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.
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.
How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made 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 get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.
I don’t know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon’s, and I believe we are at our most inventive right now. I hope you are as proud of our inventiveness as I am. I think you should be.
As Amazon became large, we decided to use our scale and scope to lead on important social issues. Two high-impact examples: our $15 minimum wage and the Climate Pledge. In both cases, we staked out leadership positions and then asked others to come along with us. In both cases, it’s working. Other large companies are coming our way. I hope you’re proud of that as well.
I find my work meaningful and fun. I get to work with the smartest, most talented, most ingenious teammates. When times have been good, you’ve been humble. When times have been tough, you’ve been strong and supportive, and we’ve made each other laugh. It is a joy to work on this team.
As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. 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 organizations can have.
Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future. We are firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to. We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish. We serve individuals and enterprises, and we’ve pioneered two complete industries and a whole new class of devices. We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian’s idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we’re flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.
Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.
- KC's View:
This could go several ways.
It could go like the first time that Howard Schultz stepped down as Starbucks CEO, became the company's chairman, and then, at the first sign of trouble (the economy was tanking), he took back the reins; I've always argued that Schultz has a bit of a Messiah complex, and circumstances played to that impulse.
Or, it could go like the second time Schultz stepped away from the company, in part because he wanted to run for president in 2020. The campaign tanked, but because he stepped away completely, it appears that his successor, Kevin Johnson, hasn't had that particular shadow to deal with.
Or, it could go like Tim Cook's continuing tenure at Apple, where he's had to deal with Steve Jobs' legend but, even if the innovation wasn't happening at the same pace, the financials have been pretty much outstanding. (Cook, of course, didn't have to worry about Jobs returning.)
One thing that Amazon and Jassy have going for them, it seems to me, is that Jeff Bezos has a lot of other interests. A lot of other interests. Even if he is Amazon-obsessive, and there's no reason to think that'll change, there are lot of other things to occupy his time. And' he's doing this on his terms, not being forced by circumstances, and certainly not hanging past his expiration date.
Plus, if things go badly - and there's no reason to think they will - he's there as a resource and inspiration.
Andy Jassy just has to find the room - indeed, make the room - in which he can continue to build a company that reflects his style and priorities to the degree one can do that with a behemoth like Amazon.
Just one bit of advice to Jassy (like he needs advice from me): If you ever wake up in the morning think to yourself, "Maybe, just maybe, today is day two" … it will be time to go.
Content Guy's Note: I'm sure we'll have more on this tomorrow.