Behind the scenes

Amazon’s new boss: who is Andy Jassy - and what will Jeff Bezos do next?

The online retail company’s founder will hand over the reins in Q3

When Andy Jassy takes over as Amazon’s new CEO later this year, he will not only be helming one of the world’s most valuable companies but also stepping into the shoes of one of history’s most successful tycoons.  

Jeff Bezos announced yesterday that he will be handing over the reins to Jassy in Q3 2021 in order to transition to a new role as executive chair of the Amazon Board.

In an email to staff, the Amazon founder said: “In the exec chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. 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.”

The announcement came as Amazon reported a record performance for the fourth quarter of 2020. “With help from the coronavirus pandemic”, the US multinational’s revenues topped $100bn (£73bn) for the first time, Sky News reports. 

Total sales between October and December 2020 - a period that included Prime Day, Black Friday and the festive season - rose by 43% year-on-year to $125.6bn (£92bn). 

Revenues for the whole of 2020 came in $386bn (£283bn), an increase of 38% from 2019, and profits almost doubled to $21.3bn (£15.6bn).

Amazon.co.uk website
Jassy: the ‘clear heir apparent’

As CEO of cloud computing business Amazon Web Services (AWS), Jassy has spent the last 15 years “converting Amazon from an e-commerce giant into a highly profitable technology company”, says CNBC

The 53-year-old has “ushered in the era of cloud computing” and his promotion suggests that web services are central to Amazon’s future, adds The Guardian.

Jassy graduated from Harvard University in 1990 and then from Harvard Business School in 1997 - from where he went straight to Amazon and never left. 

During an interview on a Harvard Business School podcast last September, he said: “I took my last final exam at HBS, the first Friday of May in 1997, and I started Amazon next Monday. No, I didn’t know what my job was going to be, or what my title was going to be.”

Jassy would go on to work his way up to become a member of Bezos’s elite group of executives known as the “S-team”. 

Indeed, Jassy was the “clear heir apparent” to the Amazon founder, The Washington Post’s Jay Greene wrote back in September.

After that prediction was proved correct this week, Tom Johnson, chief transformation officer at Mindshare Worldwide, told The Guardian that “Jassy’s background in steering AWS shows just how top-of-mind those services are to Amazon’s business strategy”.

“It will be interesting to see how that affects their strategy and balancing that priority with a growing ad business and the commerce behemoth,” Johnson added.

Jeff Bezos

Getty Images

What will Bezos do next? 

Former hedge fund manager Bezos started Amazon as an online bookshop from his garage in 1994 and has gone on to amass a fortune of $196.2bn, according to the Forbes billionaires list. The 57-year-old also owns The Washington Post newspaper, Blue Origin aerospace company and has a number of environmental initiatives. 

Although he is stepping aside from the Amazon top job, Bezos insists he’s not retiring. 

“As exec chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions,” he said in his email to his staff this week.

“I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organisations can have.”

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