Jeff Bezos to resign as chief executive of Amazon

Bezos, who founded the company in 1994, will step down after company recorded $100bn in sales for last three months of 2020

Jeff Bezos, billionaire founder of Amazon, will step down as chief executive, the company announced on Tuesday.

Bezos, who will remain executive chair, will hand the reins to Andy Jassy, chief executive of Amazon Web Services, the company’s fast-growing cloud computing business.

The surprise news came as Amazon released its latest financial results. Few companies have thrived like Amazon during the coronavirus pandemic, and in the last three months of the year, the company recorded sales of more than $100bn for the first time.

Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and built it into one of the largest companies in the world, amassing a fortune of $185bn. Amazon, which started as an online bookseller, is now a dominant force in cloud computing, groceries, electronics and entertainment, and employs more than 1.1 million people.

“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” said Bezos. “If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. 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.”

Bezos has stepped back from the day-to-day running of Amazon in recent years to pay more attention to his other interests, including space exploration and his ownership of the Washington Post. But his departure as chief executive was unexpected.

Jassy, 52, has long been seen as Bezos’s heir apparent, vying with Jeff Wilke, who ran Amazon’s retail business until he announced plans to retire last year.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) – which provides cloud computing and storage for governments and companies including McDonald’s and Netflix – has become one of the company’s most important businesses, accounting for 10% of sales in the last quarter and 52% of the company’s profits.

The company had a “record-breaking holiday season” last year, Amazon said, reporting sales of $125.56bn, its largest quarter of all time.

The leadership change comes at a strange time for Amazon. While profits continue to surge, it faces pressure from workers who have complained of mistreatment during the pandemic, and increasing political scrutiny of the size and power of its business – not least at AWS.

Last month, AWS declined to host Parler, a would-be Twitter rival popular with Donald Trump supporters, which became a communication hub for the rioters who stormed the US Capitol.

Last year, the US Congress grilled Bezos and other top tech executives over the size of their businesses.

“These companies, as they exist today, have monopoly power,” said David Cicilline, chair of the House judiciary committee’s antitrust subcommittee. “Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable. This must end.”

Tim Hubbard, assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said: “Andy Jassy stepping into the CEO role at Amazon is a natural fit. Amazon Web Services is a powerhouse within the company, driving a lot of profitability.

“This transition may free up Bezos to focus on other ideas that he’s been accumulating over the years. In one way, I think it might be freeing for him to have the space to personally innovate again, without having to manage the rest of the company.”

Hubbard added: “Given the recent successes at Amazon, especially during the pandemic, it’s going to be hard to disrupt their momentum.”

  • This article was amended on 2 February 2021 to correct the date when the news was announced.


Dominic Rushe

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jeff Bezos tells employees 'one day Amazon will fail'
Tech giant’s founder made surprise warning in staff meeting when addressing question about Sears, according to a recording

Dominic Rushe

16, Nov, 2018 @4:29 PM

Article image
What will Amazon founder Jeff Bezos do next?
Having stepped down as Amazon’s chief, the billionaire is ‘super passionate’ about other projectsInside the mind of Jeff Bezos

Rupert Neate Wealth correspondent

03, Feb, 2021 @7:27 PM

Article image
Jeff Bezos v the world: why all companies fear 'death by Amazon'
With its profound knowledge of its customers, Amazon can move into almost any sector – striking fear into the hearts of rivals. And the $740bn company is ‘just getting started’

Olivia Solon and Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco

24, Apr, 2018 @3:32 PM

Article image
Amazon v Donald Trump? Jeff Bezos may soon face his biggest challenge yet
The president-elect has been verbally sparring with Bezos for months. Now things could get a lot tougher for Amazon

Graham Ruddick

18, Nov, 2016 @7:13 PM

Article image
Jeff Bezos: the Amazon billionaire and Trump bete noire
From business started in garage to world’s richest man and collision course with Trump

Rob Davies

08, Feb, 2019 @10:03 AM

Article image
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – briefly – becomes world's richest man
Share price jump of 40% in 2017 made founder worth $91bn – for a short while leapfrogging the fortune of Microsoft founder Bill Gates

Jill Treanor

27, Jul, 2017 @8:44 PM

Article image
Jeff Bezos adds billions to his fortune as Amazon reports profit surge
Amazon’s share price soared over 4%, while Apple shares wobbled despite quarterly revenues, and Alphabet announced a loss

Dominic Rushe and Edward Helmore in New York

01, Feb, 2018 @10:42 PM

Article image
Jeff Bezos: the boy who wanted to colonise space
From a young age, the Amazon founder had dreamed up unlikely-sounding schemes. And then one took off

Rupert Neate

25, Apr, 2018 @3:01 PM

Article image
Trouble at the mill threatens Jeff Bezos and Amazon's reputation
The company’s chief executive acted quickly to refute allegations of a brutal work environment, but maybe what his employees need is a trade union

Larry Elliott Economics editor

17, Aug, 2015 @7:17 PM

Article image
Jeff Bezos buys lavish Beverly Hills estate for record $165m – report
Amazon founder purchases nine-acre estate once owned by Warner Bros president, Wall Street Journal says

Vivian Ho in San Francisco

13, Feb, 2020 @6:50 PM