Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos to step down in the summer

Updated: Feb 3

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, will step down as chief executive, the company announced on Tuesday.

The ecommerce billionaire will become executive chair during the summer, with Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy assuming the top job.

Jassy, 52, has long been seen as Bezos’s heir apparent, vying with Jeff Wilke, who ran Amazon’s retail business until he announced plans to retire last year.

In a letter, Bezos said that being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and is consuming.

"When you have a responsibility like that, it's hard to put attention on anything else," Mr Bezos said.

He said that executive chair, he will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but will also have the time and energy he needs to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and 'other passions'.

"I've never had more energy, and this isn't about retiring. I'm super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have," he added.

Mr Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and built it into one of the largest companies in the world. He has amassed a fortune of $196bn, according Forbes.

Amazon, which started as an online bookshop, now employs 1.3 million people globally and has its hand in everything from package delivery and streaming video to cloud services and advertising.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) – which provides cloud computing and storage for governments and companies including McDonald’s and Netflix – has become one of the company’s most important businesses, accounting for 10% of sales in the last quarter and 52% of the company’s profits.

“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” said Bezos.

"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.”

Amazon recorded total sales of $125.6bn (£92bn) between October and December 2020 - a period that took in its annual Prime Day - delayed from July for the first time - Black Friday and holiday season business.

It represented a 43% rise on the same period in 2019 as the coronavirus crisis forced physical retailers to close, meaning online services were more in demand. There was also a rise in streaming services as people worked from home.

Amazon said revenues for 2020 as a whole came in at $386.1bn (£283bn) - up 38%.

The leadership change comes at a time when profits continue to surge but also when the company faces pressure from workers who have complained of mistreatment during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mr Jassy, a Harvard graduate, has been with Amazon since 1997 and helped develop Amazon Web Services, which has long been seen as the profit engine of the company.

Bezos, said: "Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence."