After more than 26 years as Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jeff Bezos announced on February 2 that he will step down later this year to be executive chairman of Amazon’s board. Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon’s Web Services (AWS), will become Amazon’s next CEO—the second in the company’s 27-year long history. Bezos’ transition follows a period of tremendous growth for Amazon—the company recently surpassed a $1 trillion market cap.
According to Bezos, his desire to explore other ventures motivated the transition. In a letter to Amazon staff, Bezos wrote, “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.”
Since the company’s genesis as an online book store, Amazon has become one of the largest ECommerce and Digital Marketplace sites in the world, employing more than 1.3 million people globally. The Covid-19 pandemic boosted online retail; Amazon reported a $125.56 billion quarterly revenue in Q4. Yet Jassy inherits Bezos’ challenges. The rising calls for worker unionization and the antitrust investigations have intensified public scrutiny. Amazon has also faced mounting criticism regarding the treatment of employees. Despite Amazon’s explosive growth during the pandemic, the company refused to pay workers over $15 an hour, kindling public backlash.
Glimpses of leadership consolidate Jassy’s ambition. That Jassy managed AWS’s transformation to an omnipresent and lucrative cloud platform illuminates the centrality of the cloud in Amazon’s future and Jassy’s tendency for innovation. However, to what extent Jassy’s leadership diverges from Bezos’ remains unpredictable. To what extent they share similarities, and whether that is good, likewise remains unclear.