Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy succeeds Jeff Bezos


Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, at a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC on May 9, 2019.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Ann Hiatt remembers that Jeff Bezos didn’t like to sit for long.

As executive assistant to the CEO of Amazon from 2002 to 2005, Hiatt was tasked with following the whereabouts of Bezos. By this time, the fast-growing internet retailer had moved into an Art Deco-style building that was once the site of a US Navy hospital. It will be years before Amazon moves into a series of glistening glass buildings in downtown Seattle, with a campus that spans several city blocks and includes three glass orbs filled with plants from around the world. whole.

Bezos refused to take the elevator to Amazon’s 14th-floor office in the historic building, commonly known as the former PacMed Center, Hiatt recalls. Instead, he walked up and down the steps, often without sweating.

“He’s like a puppy. He did tricks and he was never tired,” Hiatt said in an interview. “It’s Jeff. He couldn’t be held back.”

This image of Bezos captures the relentless dynamism and energy that would propel Amazon’s meteoric rise from an internet bookseller to the world’s largest online retailer and cloud computing company.

Now, after nearly three decades, the 57-year-old founder is preparing to devote his energy to other pursuits. From Monday – 27 years to the day after Amazon was incorporated – Bezos will become executive chairman of Amazon’s board, handing over the title of CEO to his former protégé, cloud computing boss Andy Jassy.

Bezos is stepping down as CEO at a time of great success for the company, with Amazon first surpassing $ 100 billion in quarterly sales in February.

Although Bezos doesn’t go far, he still leaves Jassy to deal with many day-to-day business headaches, some of which are more intense than before. Amazon is being surveyed by antitrust regulators in the United States and abroad. It faces pressure from lawmakers who say it should focus on being a better corporate citizen. Within the company, employees regularly express grievances over working conditions and, on the front line, have met with unions to explore the possibility of organizing.

Launch of “the largest bookstore on Earth”

Bezos was vice president of Wall Street hedge fund DE Shaw when he came up with the idea of ​​starting an online bookstore. He resigned in 1994 and moved across the country to Seattle, where he bought a house in the suburbs and founded the business that would become Amazon from his garage. The company was almost called “Cadabra,” but it looked too much like “corpse,” so Bezos chose Amazon instead.

The site opened on July 16, 1995. Its home page greeted users with the proclamation of being “the largest bookstore on earth”, covering a million titles and offering “consistently low prices”. In the first month of its launch, Amazon had sold books in all states of the United States and in 45 countries around the world.

“I remember flying all the way to Seattle to visit the company at its First Avenue offices across from a free syringe clinic in a pretty dingy neighborhood in Seattle,” John Doerr, one of the first, told CNBC. Amazon investors and chairman of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. “Tech Check” on Friday. “We built these tables from office doors that we bought from Home Depot. We went online with a very fast website and were able to deliver all the books in the world in a shorter timeframe at better prices than anyone in the world. “

After a successful IPO in 1997 that made Bezos a millionaire, the CEO managed to navigate Amazon through the dot-com bubble. By the mid-2000s, Bezos had begun to expand Amazon’s focus beyond online retail and into cloud computing, video entertainment, and devices. He’s taken on high-profile projects outside of Amazon, such as founding rocket company Blue Origin, which he funded by selling billions of Amazon shares.

Bezos often took a long-term view of Amazon’s business, which involved prioritizing growth over earnings, much to Wall Street’s dismay. In a remarkable exchange, former Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak lobbied Bezos on Amazon’s budget for his fledgling Kindle e-reader project, launched in 2007, according to a former Amazon vice president. Bezos jokingly replied, “Well, how much money do we have in the bank?”

Bezos is the richest man in the world, which makes him the target of politicians and advocates who seek to reduce income inequality and see him as an example of unchecked corporate power. He is now a regular guest at the Oscars and has continued to increase his presence in the nation’s capital by acquiring the Washington Post, among others. He was put in the spotlight when he became a direct target of former President Donald Trump.

In interviews, former Amazon employees have suggested that Jassy’s softer personality, as well as the fact that he’s not widely known outside of Silicon Valley circles, could end up working at Amazon’s advantage as it despises its detractors.

“Andy will represent Amazon when Congress or other stakeholders come in to call and ask or ask tough questions,” said John Rossman, an Amazon executive in the early 2000s and author of “The Amazon Way.” “Perhaps, in some ways, not being the founder will help him be even more effective in these dialogues.”

Amazon’s next iteration

The transition from Bezos to Jassy won’t change much. Jassy is steeped in Amazon’s corporate culture, having helped design the fundamental leadership principles that guide employees.

Jassy also served as a “shadow” for Bezos in the early 2000s. Shadows act as a “double brain” for Bezos, offering another pair of eyes and ears in meetings, Hiatt said. Known officially as the Technical Assistant, they are copied to every email and flight itinerary and help recap each day’s events to prepare for the next.

Andy Jassy, ​​general manager of web services at Inc., listens during the Amazon Web Services Summit in San Francisco on April 19, 2017.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shadows generally move on to esteemed roles within the company. For Jassy, ​​it was Amazon’s fledgling cloud computing business.

Jassy helped advise Bezos’ next shadow, Colin Bryar, on how to take on the task. As a shadow of Bezos, he interacted with Jassy in meetings with the Bezos S-Team, a group of senior company executives, who met every Tuesday for a four-hour breakfast.

Bryar and other former colleagues said the CEO of AWS possesses the same drive as Bezos, but is known to take a somewhat different approach in his leadership style.

Bezos can be opinionated, forceful and at times aggressive, said people who worked closely with the CEO. Jassy often has a softer air, but can be just as intense, recalling specific details from presentations and pointing out divergences with laser-like focus.

Jassy also has Bezos’ penchant for pushing employees to think bigger. Bezos sometimes became obsessed with a certain project and, to the surprise of some employees, followed up with the teams regularly to make sure they were on the right track.

“People would say, for example, my team of 23 people met me like every two weeks for two months,” said David Anderson, former head of Amazon’s AWS units and devices. “So every once in a while it was almost like this giant hammer would come in and smash this problem because Jeff was getting involved.”

Jassy looks like Bezos “more than any other” senior Amazon executive, Anderson said, due to his intelligent intelligence and deep knowledge of Amazon’s business from top to bottom.

He recalled an AWS operations meeting that included high-level executives, in which Jassy delved into very specific and technical issues.

“It blew me away because he’s the guy who runs AWS and he’s very knowledgeable about very low-level details,” Anderson said. “It occurred to me that he was running the organization for a very good reason. He doesn’t just think big, he knows the details.”

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