By Catarina Vincente | Contributor
On the 2nd of February 2021, Jeff Bezos, founder of the multinational technology company Amazon, announced that he was planning to step back from his role as Chief Executive in order to pursue other areas of the business.
Operated initially out of his garage in Seattle, Bezos founded Amazon back in 1994 with the assistance of his then-wife, MacKenzie Scott. Amazon (now estimated to be worth USD 1.7 trillion dollars) started as a small online bookseller but began to increase its variety of products over time to incorporate electronics, entertainment and even groceries into its ever expanding catalogue. As one of the most successful companies of all time, the e-commerce giant skyrocketed financially during the pandemic and saw monthly sales reach in excess of USD 100 billion dollars.
In the letter declaring his departure from Amazon, Bezos commented that: “Right now, I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition”.
In his stead, Andy Jassy will become Chief Executive – Jassy previously worked as Chief Executive of Amazon Web Series (AWS), the company’s cloud computing business that dominates a third of the internet’s cloud business, used by governments, companies and individuals to store data. AWS remains to be Amazon’s most profitable business and accounts for approximately 52% of its profits over the last quarter.
Jeff Bezos, now 57 years old, will continue within the company as its Executive Chairman and, by stepping down from his prominent role, aims to pursue his other interests with a greater amount of “time and energy”. Within this, Bezos intends to work closely with other new and existing aspects of his empire, including space exploration, his Blue Origin company, climate change and the Washington Post. In many ways, this announcement to step down occurs at the height of Bezos’ fame and, as such, he is still expected to remain a vital part of Amazon’s decision-making processes.
Tim Hubbard, an Assistant Professor of Management at the Mendoza College of Business, noted that this move “might be freeing for him to have the space to personally innovate again” and that Andy Jassy “is a natural fit” for the CEO role at Amazon.
Carolina Milanesi, an industry commentator and analyst at research company Creative Strategies, attested that this decision to step down has not diminished Bezos’ power within Amazon and, evaluating the founder’s new role, believes that Bezos will continue “making an impact on the future of the company”.
Bezos’ unexpected departure, however, has sparked some controversy following recent investigations into the operation of Amazon’s Fulfilment Centres and the company’s wider business practices. With over 1.1 million employees worldwide, the company has faced criticism for an apparent unethical treatment of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those in opposition to Amazon’s business practices, including activist group Public Citizen, have also called for increased transparency and for Andy Jassy to respond to their concerns as part of his new role as Chief Executive.
Whilst Bezos’ decision came as a surprise to many industry experts, the impact of this switchover on Amazon’s day-to-day operations is currently unknown and, as such, the e-commerce giant is due to see several other changes throughout the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic.