Bezos, who founded the company in1994, will step down after company recorded $100bn in sales for last three months of 2020
Jeff Bezos in Las Vegas in June 2019. Bezos said: ‘Right now, I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.’ Photograph: John Locher/AP
Jeff Bezos, billionaire founder of Amazon, will step down as chief executive, the company announced on Tuesday.
Bezos, who will remain executive chair, will hand the reins to Andy Jassy, chief executive of Amazon Web Services, the company’s fast-growing cloud computing business.
The surprise news came as Amazon released its latest financial results. Few companies have thrived like Amazon during the coronavirus pandemic, and in the last three months of the year, the company recorded sales of more than $100bn for the first time.
Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and built it into one of the largest companies in the world, amassing a fortune of $185bn. Amazon, which started as an online bookseller, is now a dominant force in cloud computing, groceries, electronics and entertainment, and employs more than 1.1 million people.
“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” said Bezos. “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.”
Bezos has stepped back from the day-to-day running of Amazon in recent years to pay more attention to his other interests, including space exploration and his ownership of the Washington Post. But his departure as chief executive was unexpected.
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.
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.
The company had a “record-breaking holiday season” last year, Amazon said, reporting sales of $125.56bn, its largest quarter of all time.