Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s CEO on Monday, exactly 27 years since he started the e-commerce giant during a garage in West Bellevue, Wash. Bezos is handing day-to-day duties to his longtime deputy Andy Jassy but will still hold considerable sway because the company’s executive chairman. Under Bezos, Amazon transformed itself from a web bookseller startup into the world’s largest online retailer. Bezos led the corporate safely through the dot-com bubble bursting within the early 2000s then launched a period of ruthless expansion, pushing its influence far beyond Internet commerce. Amazon now commands sizable businesses in grocery stores, cloud computing, smart devices, filmmaking, and even fashion brands.
Bezos, the richest man on the earth, told employees earlier this year that handing the reins to Jassy would allow him to specialize in other projects, like philanthropic pursuits addressing global climate change and his space exploration company Blue Origin (Bezos himself is getting to fly to the sting of space on a rocket built by the corporate in two weeks). Bezos will remain Amazon’s largest shareholder. “Jeff is basically not going anywhere,” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief treasurer, told reporters in February. “It’s more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”
Jassy, who joined Amazon in 1997, had been the chief executive of Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing juggernaut that’s Amazon’s most profitable division and helps power large swaths of the web, including Netflix, Facebook, and Twitter. The transition arrives at a pivotal time for Amazon. The pandemic’s shift to remote work was a serious boon for the corporate, soaring profits as Americans confined reception shopped more online and demanded additional cloud computing resources. Those new fortunes, however, come during a flash of growing pressure. Amazon’s competitive practices are the topic of probes from Congress, the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and regulators in Europe, as officialdom accuses the corporate of abusing its market dominance.
Amazon drivers and other workers have alleged mistreatment and complained about breakneck working conditions in Amazon factories. Brad Stone, a senior editor at Bloomberg News who has written two books about Amazon, said Bezos has an unusual gift for problem-solving and that specializes in many disparate issues directly, but empathy has never been his strength. Jassy has long seen Bezos as a mentor, but colleagues have said he’s more mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and less susceptible to angry outbursts, compared to Bezos. As Jassy takes over as CEO, one key challenge is going to be tamping down the rougher side of Amazon’s empire infusing the corporate what Stone calls a more humble image. “Jassy takes over at a critical time,” Stone told NPR. “He’s inheriting not just the tremendous success but all the luggage that comes with it,” Stone added that having Jassy at the helm could also be aimed toward changing perceptions of Amazon, a corporation that has become an inescapable part of lifestyle but one the author says elicits mixed feelings. “I think Jassy has got to quite make Amazon a more empathetic company, a friendlier company,” Stone said. “He has got to find Amazon’s heart.”