Amazon will enter a new era tomorrow: Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of the company after 27 years. He is given the role of executive chairman; in this way he hands over the day-to-day management, but he remains involved in major decisions.
How will the company continue without the visionary who made it this far? Bezos turned Amazon into an influential e-commerce giant, but the company has also been criticized for market power and tax evasion (which it resists).
Named after a river
When you think of Amazon, you probably think of the web store first. That’s where it all started in 1994. The name is a reference to the Amazon, one of the longest rivers in the world. Bezos also wanted to be among the top with his online bookstore.
The platform grew into a place where you can buy millions of products. The company is also increasingly active in the Netherlands. Since March last year, sellers have been able to offer products via Amazon’s platform.
But the CEO’s ambitions were bigger than the web store all those years: Bezos subsequently expanded the company into a conglomerate with various branches. Amazon Prime Video came with a competitor for Netflix, a smart speaker (a private smartphone failed), and there were smaller and larger acquisitions.
A selection of what comes under Amazon these days:
The day-to-day management of Amazon will be in the hands of Andy Jassy. A veteran: He has been with the company since 1997, right after graduating from Harvard. In the early years, he worked in marketing positions, among other things. He took the first important step in 2002: Jassy became technical advisor to Bezos. For eighteen months he ‘shadowed’ the CEO and was his sparring partner.
His next step was far more important for the company: with Bezos’ blessing, Jassy set up cloud service Amazon Web Services. The idea: other companies could use the extra capacity that Amazon does not need for its own online store. This was a huge success, the part now accounts for 60 percent of the total profit. Today, the company is the market leader in this ever-growing sector and counts multinationals and governments among its customers.
Jassy will soon lead a company that grew enormously during the corona crisis; to 1.2 million employees. The stock market value rose to 1750 billion dollars; only Apple and Microsoft are worth more.
Sales and profits also increased enormously:
Bezos has been able to expand his company fairly undisturbed in recent decades, but that is not possible for Jassy. It is now almost certain that politics will take up a large part of his time.
The company is under fire on several fronts. It has been unsettled among Amazon’s distribution employees for some time. They feel badly treated. Earlier this year, employees at an Alabama distribution center tried to unionize; this failed. According to The New York Times, the company tried to discourage participation.
The newspaper recently published a major study into working conditions in the distribution centers, which showed that there was a lot of stress, little communication and people were fired for no reason. A spokesperson called the examples “exceptions” to the newspaper.
In addition, various investigations into abuse of power by the company are ongoing in the US and in Europe. New legislation is also being prepared on both sides of the ocean that could affect the company considerably. And finally, Amazon will have to deal with the new, worldwide tax agreements. These contain specific rules whereby the company is also covered.
Amazon’s new CEO:
The hope within the company is that Jassy will also become the public face of the group, sources told the Financial Times. The first time Bezos answered somewhat awkwardly questions from Congress about Amazon – last summer – was also his last.
People who have worked with Jassy have described him to the business paper as someone who has a lot of ready knowledge about data and technical details. That should help him when he sits in the chair facing critical politicians. “He’s going to have to put a lot more effort into Amazon’s relationship with society and government than Jeff ever had to,” Tim Bray, a former developer at cloud service AWS, told the paper.
And Bezos? Later this month, he will join the first tourist flight of his space company Blue Origin, fulfilling a big dream for him.