A new era for Amazon as Jeff Bezos hands over CEO role

Jeff Bezos at re:MARS 2019 fireside chat - Source: Amazon
Feb 03, 2021
George Anderson

In an internal letter to Amazon.com employees yesterday, Jeff Bezos announced that he will be stepping down as chief executive of the company in the third quarter this year to become its executive chairman. It will mark the first time that someone other than Mr. Bezos has led the day-to-day business at Amazon since its founding.

Andy Jassy, long-time company veteran and head of Amazon Web Services, will transition into the CEO role with Mr. Bezos’ change in duties.  Mr. Jassy “is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have,” wrote Mr. Bezos. “He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”

Mr. Bezos said he would remain engaged with important company projects and that he intended to devote more of his time to his other business and philanthropic interests including the Bezos Earth Fund, his Blue Origin spaceship company, The Washington Post and the Amazon Day 1 Fund.

Reflecting on Amazon’s success, he pointed to invention as the key.

“We’ve done crazy things together and then made them normal,” he wrote. “We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized 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 get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. I don’t know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon’s, and I believe we are at our most inventive right now.”

Mr. Bezos also touted socially responsible moves Amazon has made during his tenure, such as paying workers a minimum starting wage of $15 an hour and committing $2 billion to its Climate Pledge effort.

Amazon has long been known for getting maximum positive publicity for all its announcements and Mr. Bezos was not the only big news yesterday for the retailing, logistics and technology giant. The company reported that net sales climbed 44 percent year-over-year to  $125.6 billion in the fourth quarter. Net income during the quarter increased to $14.09 per share, up from $6.47 a share during the same period in 2019.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Amazon’s inventiveness the single key feature that has set it apart from other retailers and consumer-facing brands over the past 20+ years? Do you expect the company’s commitment and track record of doing “crazy things” and making “them normal” to continue with Andy Jassy as Amazon CEO?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"It’s more about the embedded company culture than about one person at the top."
"The crazy things will continue so long as Amazon can brand them and market them — which is what it does best."
"Innovative technology + customer-centricity = Amazon’s success story. As long as Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy sticks to this formula, there is no stopping them."

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22 Comments on "A new era for Amazon as Jeff Bezos hands over CEO role"

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Mark Ryski

Inventiveness, coupled with the courageousness to experiment, fail and try again is the hallmark of Amazon’s success. Like him or hate him, Jeff Bezos will be in the pantheon of business giants of our era. And while there is always some trepidation when the leader of a spectacularly successful enterprise steps down as CEO, the fact of the matter is that Bezos isn’t going anywhere. Furthermore, given the long history Bezos and Jassy have working together, I suspect that “crazy things” approach is built into their corporate DNA. I have no doubt that Amazon will continue to innovate and press forward — as they always have.

Neil Saunders

The leadership change at Amazon has, predictably, generated a lot of headlines. However I do not foresee a significant change in the trajectory of the business. Jeff Bezos will still be involved and will be a big voice in terms of the future direction of Amazon. Moreover, Andy Jassy is a very experienced Amazon insider who has been with the company from almost the start.

I don’t expect Amazon’s relentless pace of innovation to slow. Jeff will still make big contributions on this front. And, in any case, the culture of Amazon is set up to be innovative so that everyone can contribute and progress new ideas without fearing failure.

Georganne Bender

That was one inspiring email Jeff Bezos sent to the team at Amazon. It’s clear that he has full trust in Andy Jassy and that he isn’t going far. As Bezos said, “Invention is the root of our success.” Like it or not, Amazon has made retail better. I fully expect Amazon to keep right on surprising us as it has for over 20 years.

Richard Hernandez

I have always thought that the story of how Amazon got started is the story of American ingenuity. I think Amazon will continue to be on the forefront of cutting edge technology and redefining what retail is to the consumer. I believe that even as Jeff Bezos steps away from the day-to-day work, his name and face will still be visible in the Amazon ecosystem.

Suresh Chaganti

I think Amazon will continue be to as successful as it has been and stay true to its Day One philosophy. Nearly every big tech company (with Yahoo being a notable exception) has successfully transitioned away from being run by its founders and stayed largely true to the original DNA – look at Microsoft, Apple, Google, Netflix and, in retail, Starbucks. From all appearances Amazon’s move has been a while in the making.

Dick Seesel

A company’s willingness to innovate, and to expand into new kinds of businesses, is only as good as its ability to execute. Amazon has pushed relentlessly into all corners of the retail world (as well as the worlds of entertainment, web hosting, and so forth) — and has built trust through reliability, speed, and cost-effectiveness.

There have been very few failures during the Bezos era, and many unparalleled successes. For those fearful of a changeover at the CEO level, the template of Tim Cook replacing the late Steve Jobs is a good one; it’s more about the embedded company culture than about one person at the top.

Ben Ball

Your comment and reference to Apple as the example are spot on Dick! And Bezos is kicking himself up — he’s not leaving this world as Jobs did. But there’s one key difference and you alluded to it in referencing the importance of execution. Jobs brought Apple tremendous creative genius. Bezos brought Amazon an incredibly effective business process and a culture that manages to balance efficiency and risk brilliantly. If anything, Bezos is more Jack Welch than Steve Jobs. Amazon will thrive.

Dick Seesel

Good point about Bezos (hopefully) not leaving this world like Jobs did! Both companies seem to benefit from succession planning, which is another “lesson learned” for founder-centric companies.

Rich Kizer

I am sure that everything will be fine in this company which knows no idea ceilings. Andy Jassy is so integrated into the program that we will be speaking about him weekly. And Jeff Bezos will never be far from the action. No worries!

Rodger Buyvoets

Amazon’s customer obsession is also something that has set them apart. Unfortunately, you can’t be customer-obsessed without actually being human. If Jassy wants to commit to doing “crazy things” he needs to start practicing what they preach – being data-conscious, ensuring fair labor and digital transparency. But on the whole, if they can ensure the same enhanced customer experiences, they will continue to win with whomever they put in charge.

Gary Sankary

It’s hard to keep track of how many industry paradigms have been shattered by Amazon in their relatively brief history. And the list of retail executives they’ve proven wrong is just as impressive. I’m old enough to remember C-suite executives at a certain tier-one retailer telling us “junior execs” that “Amazon is overhyped, people like stores.” A few years later they said, “no one will buy apparel without being able to touch it or try it on” and later “Amazon will not be successful at grocery, food is a personal experience” — to recall just few.

Amazon’s innovation and willingness to try, win or fail, has driven innovation throughout the industry as retailers have tried to keep up. I don’t see this changing a bit. As colleagues here have pointed out, Mr. Bezos isn’t going anywhere. Actually, I suspect that now that he’s relieved from day-to-day operations we might see even more innovation and new ideas.

Lisa Goller

Yes. No other retail company had tech at the core of its strategy. While rivals feared risk, Amazon runs toward it as a tech-driven force of change.

Traditional retailers struggle to imitate Amazon, which embedded inventiveness across the company and its supply chain from the start. It drafted the blueprint for a tech-driven retail infrastructure that consumers and companies would use for generations to come.

How do you compete with a completely different species?

Amazon single-handedly reimagined retail with its long-term vision of applying unmatchable tech to delight shoppers. That’s because Bezos’ tech mindset uniquely equipped Amazon to seize the opportunities of the “information super-highway” in a new, digital millennium.

As Bezos steps back, Jassy will ensure Amazon still makes wacky inventions commonplace. Its signature innovation will endure and expand.

Zel Bianco

Bezos made bold decisions that paid off when Amazon was in its infancy. A foundation on which he continued to make bold decisions that paid off on most fronts. He also failed on a number of them but had the resources to overcome them and continue to make bold decisions. We all talk about failing fast and often, but it is much easier to fail and be OK to start again when you have the kind of resources that Amazon has. On the other hand it proves that in business, and in life; no risk, no reward!

Jeff Sward

I would qualify it as fearless inventiveness. Damn the status quo. Damn the conventional. There’s a better way and we’re going to find it. And it will be OK to fail along the way. We will keep trying.

Lee Peterson

As my mentor used to say, “there are those that create and those that manage, and rare are there those that can do both.” Bezos should go down as the most creative, disruptive, brilliant business leader in our history. And if he doesn’t, something’s wrong. Amazon has single-handedly moved retail into the 21st century with relentless/unparalleled innovation and execution. I am happy to be alive to witness the jaw dropping results. Those that only see the negative will regret that dissension 10 years from now when all retailers look and act more like Amazon.

Shep Hyken

Inventiveness is one of the reasons for Amazon’s huge success. They always took part of their profit and put it back into the company to innovate and find better ways to serve the customer. Bezos is not leaving. He’s just moving to a position where he says he will focus on new product ideas. Inventiveness is not leaving Amazon anytime soon. Crazy things will continue to come from this iconic brand.

Bindu Gupta

Innovative technology + customer-centricity = Amazon’s success story. As long as Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy sticks to this formula, there is no stopping them. Looking forward to all the “crazy things” that this new leader is going to “make normal” in the coming years!

Ricardo Belmar

Amazon is defined by its corporate culture and although it was established by its founder, Jeff Bezos, that culture is ingrained into everything Amazon does. This will not change in the future with a new CEO, especially one that is a long-time Amazon employee. What I find most interesting is that he is the current head of AWS and has been since its very beginnings. This signifies the importance AWS will have going forward for the business and may be a slightly veiled attempt to indicate to detractors that they have no intention of spinning it off into its own company.

Jeff Bezos defined customer-centricity for the modern retail industry during a time when retail had become too complacent and used to being in control of the world of commerce. Amazon taught the industry that consumers are in control and if you put your customer at the focus of everything you do, you can accomplish great things and customers will reward you. The industry is a better place as a result!

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

I would never bet against Bezos or Amazon. Bezos has often been quoted on his innovative successes. Here’s one of my favorite Bezos quotes: “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”

I see no reason for Jassy to change the Amazon course.

Ananda Chakravarty

Inventiveness is a consequence. The real capability was in its marketing engine to boost stories and captivate consumers. Everything was about the customer-from the start and that gave Amazon some advantages in the market until others caught up to its customer first thinking. The crazy things will continue so long as Amazon can brand them and market them — which is what it does best. It’s engineering, product dev and innovation is almost an afterthought. While highly important for business success, it is more of a consequence of the drive to fulfill its marketing promises.

Brandon Rael

The culture of relentless innovation and the “it’s always day 1” mantra established by Jeff Bezos has permeated throughout Amazon. It is in no danger of disappearing as he hands over the CEO role to Andy Jassy. While Bezos has been one of the more dominant figures of the past 20 years in the business world and the brand ambassador for Amazon, the company is in no danger of shifting from its diverse services and products business operating models.

Jeff Bezos will still be the face of the brand. His influence will continue to be seen and heard as Amazon continues their relentless growth trajectories across various business segments. Amazon has served as a beacon of service and how a once digital first company can thrive, disrupt and succeed in a rapidly changing world. For better or worse, Amazon has changed consumer expectations and has served as a force of change.

It will be fascinating to see what the next chapter of Jeff Bezos’s story will be.

Craig Sundstrom

So Amazon pioneered customer reviews — and it was a “crazy idea” — who knew? I wish Mr. Bezos well on his career shift. (I’m reluctant to say “stepping down” since I firmly believe as long as he’s breathing, he’ll be in charge.)

"It’s more about the embedded company culture than about one person at the top."
"The crazy things will continue so long as Amazon can brand them and market them — which is what it does best."
"Innovative technology + customer-centricity = Amazon’s success story. As long as Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy sticks to this formula, there is no stopping them."

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