Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO after 25 years

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JD Lasica | Wikimedia Commons

Gabriel Rivera

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos is leaving his position as CEO after he started the company over 25 years ago in his garage and built it into a multi-billion dollar tech giant.

Bezos will become the executive chairman of the Seattle based company and will be replaced by Andy Jassy this summer, Bezos announced in a blog post dedicated to Amazon employees.

“Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” Bezos wrote. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.”

In his new role, Bezos will still be closely connected to all of Amazon’s initiatives while being able to focus on projects and organizations such as Blue Origin, The Washington Post and his “other passions.”

Bezos is part of a growing number of CEOs who have stepped down to become the executive chair of their companies in recent years, particularly in the tech industry. This trend is attributed to “long-serving baby-boomer CEOs and Silicon Valley founders” approaching retirement who still believe their company needs their guidance before they can truly step away, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Jeff is really not going anywhere,” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer, told multiple reporters in a call. “It’s more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”

Like many of the other big tech founders that have since moved on to a lower position, Bezos will retain a great deal of power and remain as Amazon’s biggest shareholder, with his stake in the company currently worth almost $180 billion.

“In many respects, nothing has changed,” Peter Crist, chairman of Crist Kolder Associates, said to The Wall Street Journal. “When you’re the founder, people listen no matter the title.”

Bezos’ successor, Jassy, is the creator and former leader of Amazon Web Services. The soon-to-be CEO of one of the wealthiest corporations in the world has spent over two decades at the top of its ranks, running the cloud-computing business responsible for some of Amazon’s biggest profits in recent years.

Jassy was hand-picked by Bezos in 2002 to shadow him and “be a sparring partner for Jeff intellectually,” Ann Hiatt, former executive assistant to Bezos, said to The New York Times.

For 18 months, Jassy accompanied Bezos to exclusive board meetings and took part in discussions about the future of the company.

Although Jassy has not spoken publicly on the direction he intends to take Amazon in as its new CEO, people with knowledge of the situation have said it is certain he will pick up where Bezos left off.

“Andy is very much part of the whole culture,” Tom Alber, former Amazon board member, said to The New York Times. “I really do think it will be a strong continuation.”

Jassy’s close relationship with Bezos and his track record with facial recognition have raised some early concerns on how Amazon will continue to develop that type of technology. Jassy is a staunch supporter of Rekognition, a facial recognition software produced by Amazon and used by police departments nationwide that has received sharp backlash for its racial bias toward people of color.

“Just because tech could be misused doesn’t mean we should ban it and condemn it,” Jassy said in a 2019 interview with Recode.

In May 2020, Jassy denounced the murder of Breonna Taylor and argued police officers needed to stop being “authoritarians” on Twitter. Shortly after, Amazon placed a one-year moratorium on the use of its facial recognition technology by law enforcement.

Jassy will inherit the helm of a company that saw its profits surge throughout the pandemic, exceeding all projections from financial analysts at the start of 2020. The company currently employs more than 1.3 million people and its stock has jumped 69% over the past year, according to CNN.

While Amazon does find itself in a favorable financial situation, Jassy’s new role will come with a few challenges. On top of the pressure of succeeding one of big tech’s original masterminds, Jassy will enter the crosshairs of government regulators, antitrust charges and labor unions.

“Amazon’s size makes some industries uncomfortable, some governments uncomfortable, and Andy Jassy will have to deal with the consequences,” Gartner analyst Ed Anderson said to The Associated Press. “That will be some of the new era of his leadership.”

Despite the foreseeable challenges on the horizon for Jassy and Amazon, Bezos reiterated his faith in his longtime protégé.

“He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence,” Bezos wrote.