Billionaire Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as an online bookseller nearly three decades ago, will step down as the CEO of the $1.7 trillion global retail giant in the third quarter of 2021 with Andy Jassy being named his successor.
Amazon, which announced Wednesday that 2020 net sales increased 38 per cent to $386.1 billion, compared with $280.5 billion in 2019, said Bezos, 57, will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of this year and Jassy, 53, CEO of the company's cloud business, Amazon Web Services, will become chief executive officer at that time.
“Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal,” Bezos said, adding that the company pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalised recommendations, Prime's insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more.
“If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.
“When you look at our financial results, what you're actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention.
“Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition,” he said in a statement.
In a letter to Amazonians, Bezos said he will transition to executive chair of the Amazon board, a role in which he said he intends to focus his energies and attention on new products and early initiatives.
Jassy, who is “well known” inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as Bezos has, “will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence."
Bezos said while being the CEO of Amazon is a "deep responsibility”, it's consuming and with that responsibility, it is “hard” to give attention on anything else.
As executive chair, Bezos said he will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy he needs to focus on initiatives such as the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and his other passions.
“I've never had more energy, and this isn't about retiring. I'm super passionate about the impact I think these organisations can have.”
Bezos said the journey of Amazon began some 27 years ago when the company “was only an idea, and it had no name.
“The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, ‘What's the internet?' Blessedly, I haven't had to explain that in a long while.”
Today, the online retail giant employs 1.3 million people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and is widely recognised as one of the most successful companies in the world, he said.
“How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success,” he said, adding that he does not know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon's, and he believes Amazon is at its most inventive right now.
“I hope you are as proud of our inventiveness as I am. I think you should be,” he said.
Bezos highlighted that as the company grew, it decided to use its scale and scope to lead on important social issues such as the $15 minimum wage and the climate pledge.
“In both cases, we staked out leadership positions and then asked others to come along with us. In both cases, it's working.
“Other large companies are coming our way. I hope you're proud of that as well.”
Describing his work as “meaningful and fun”, Bezos said he is excited about this transition at a time when millions of customers depend on Amazon for its services, and more than a million employees depend on it for their livelihoods.
“Amazon couldn't be better positioned for the future.
“We are firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to.
“We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish.
“We serve individuals and enterprises, and we've pioneered two complete industries and a whole new class of devices.
“We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian's idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we're flexible enough and patient enough to learn it,” he said, calling on his employees to “keep inventing, and don't despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.”
In the fourth quarter of 2020, Amazon reported net sales of $125.6 billion, compared with $87.4 billion in fourth quarter 2019.
Net income increased to $7.2 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with net income of $3.3 billion.
For the full year 2020, net income increased to $21.3 billion, compared with net income of $11.6 billion in 2019.