Toward the end of the year, Jeff Bezos will step down from his role as CEO of Amazon, the company he founded and built into the dominant force in US e-commerce.
His successor, Amazon said in an announcement today, will be Andy Jassy.
Jassy has long been viewed as a potential successor to Bezos, despite not being part of Amazon’s retail operations, the company’s core business since its launch as an online bookseller in 1995. Instead, he created and runs Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud-computing platform that has grown into one of the most promising and profitable parts of Amazon’s empire.
Jassy, 53, joined Amazon in 1997, just after completing his master’s degree at Harvard Business School. He held various leadership roles in the company, and around 2000 took on the project of developing the internal systems Amazon needed to deal with its rapidly scaling growth. The company soon realized what it was building could be valuable to others as well, and in 2006, launched AWS, providing businesses access to a web-based IT infrastructure. Because Amazon was first into the market, it established itself as the leader in cloud computing. It remains so today, powering “hundreds of thousands of businesses in 190 countries around the world,” the company says.
The division has become a critical element in Amazon’s business. Prior to the pandemic, AWS consistently grew faster than Amazon’s retail business, though the surge in online shopping due to Covid-19 has given Amazon’s product sales a strong boost. While its growth has slowed some as it’s gotten larger, it’s still going strong. This quarter, AWS reached $12.7 billion in sales, about 10% of Amazon’s total sales in the period.
Because of his work with AWS, Jassy was on a very short list of potential replacements for Bezos. In 2016, he was promoted to CEO of AWS, while Jeff Wilke, who was Amazon’s retail chief, was made CEO of the company’s worldwide consumer businesses. The move was seen as a way of sizing up the two to determine who might take Bezos’s place when he eventually stepped aside as the company’s top executive. But in August, Wilke announced his plan to retire in 2021, leaving Jassy as the sole apparent heir to Bezos’s throne. Jassy will officially take over the position in the third quarter of this year, the company said in its announcement.
As for Bezos, he will transition to the role of executive chair and spend more of his time focusing on things other than Amazon’s day-to-day operations, such as his space company Blue Origin, the charitable funds he has founded, and the Washington Post newspaper, according to a published email to Amazon employees. “Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future,” he wrote.