In a bombshell announcement that surprised (on the timing) Amazon insiders, CEO/founder Jeff Bezos, 57, announced Tuesday (2/2) that he will step down from that post at the end of 2021. The company named Andy Jassy, head of Amazon Web Services, as the new CEO. No surprise there as Jassy, who built up AWS from scratch over the past two decades, is the obvious choice.
Bezos had stepped back slightly from hands-on management in 2019, before resuming a more active role when the pandemic struck. Still, the signals of moving on could be detected, particularly with all the new causes, such as climate change, that he has developed. Bezos’s new role, executive chairman, positions him to help develop many of these new initiatives in both the commercial side (health care, space travel) and nonprofit work. That title word, executive, is hard to decipher, but Bezos is a master at delegating to strong managers.
In making the announcement, Bezos said Amazon is at its “most inventive ever,” and that might apply to the business leader himself. One former board member notes how passionately Bezos believes in invention, and that Bezos believes we can invent our way out of global warming. The recent round of $800 million Bezos-directed donations from the Bezos Earth Fund gave one indication — funding work on carbon-capturing corn.
Might Bezos, like Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, simply be trying out a new role and maybe retake the helm later? Unlikely, says a longtime board member. More likely, Bezos is following the path of Bill Gates, finding his passion in solving some of the world’s mighty problems. This Ground Hog Day, out he popped, squinting at the sun.
It would be nice if Seattle’s political leaders saw this as a possible opportunity to improve their relationship with Amazon.
I think there is a good chance this will happen. Jasse is much more embedded in Seattle’s political culture and so might help the rapprochement as well as be a better match for the activist employees at Amazon.
This article from Recode makes the case that Bezos, by avoiding the punishing spotlight as leader of Amazon, will be able to regain public trust and therefore accomplish much more in his founder-cum-philanthropist role. That wizard is always three chess moves ahead of his critics!