Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO; Andy Jassy sets to take over

Jeff Bezos said Tuesday that he will step down as chief executive of Amazon, leaving the helm of the company he founded 27 years ago.

Bezos will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of this year, the company said. Andy Jassy, the chief executive of Amazon Web Services, will take over as CEO of Amazon.

In a memo to employees, Bezos said the transition will give him “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.”

The announcement set off alarm bells on Wall Street and throughout the business community, though the transition does not necessarily portend any significant change to Amazon’s business. Amazon reported a year of record growth on Tuesday including a 38 percent increase in net sales from 2019, netting the company $21 billion in income, nearly double from the year before. Investors didn’t seem fazed by the news, either. Amazon’s share price was up about 1.5 percent following the announcement.

It remains to be seen how active Bezos will be in Amazon’s business in his new role. Several major tech executives have stepped down as CEO and remained intimately involved in their companies’ business, including Larry Ellison at Oracle and Bill Gates at Microsoft. Bezos remains one of Amazon’s biggest shareholders.

In Jassy, Bezos is tapping a longtime Amazon employee who first joined in 1997 and built the company’s cloud services business, which started as a small addition to its ecommerce operations but has grown in recent years to account for roughly 60 percent of operating profit and has become one of the leaders of the cloud computing industry.

The move marks a major turning point in one of the most successful entrepreneurial runs in American history. Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as an online bookstore, survived the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, and built the company into one of the largest employers in the U.S. with a network of facilities touching almost every part of the country. Bezos is one of the world’s richest people, having recently been edged out of the top spot by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, ‘What’s the internet?,'” Bezos said in the employee memo about the early days of Amazon. “Blessedly, I haven’t had to explain that in a long while.”

Amazon’s success moved it quickly from a quirky internet upstart into one of the most watched — and scrutinized — companies in the U.S. Amazon’s size and business practices have raised antitrust questions from both U.S. and European Union regulators about how it has used its dominance to edge out competitors. Bezos was called before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last year where he faced questions about the company’s competitive practice including accusations of pricing out competitors on its platform and using third-party seller data to inform the sale of its own products.

Bezos’ move sparked reaction from many of his fellow tech chiefs, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

“Congrats @JeffBezos , best wishes for Day 1 and Earth fund,” Pichai tweeted, referring to Bezos’ philanthropic efforts focused on helping homeless families and starting preschools in low-income communities and climate change, respectively.

-By Dylan Byers and Leticia Miranda, NBC

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