Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon chief executive

3 Feb 2021

Jeff Bezos. Image: George W Bush Centre/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The founder will become executive chairman as the e-commerce giant reports record revenues in the last quarter of 2020.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as chief executive this year. The news came as the e-commerce giant reported another record quarter.

Bezos will take on the position of executive chair in the third quarter of 2021, with Amazon Web Services boss Andy Jassy taking the reins as chief executive.

The move will see Bezos give up the day-to-day running of the tech giant he founded in 1994, which just recorded another quarter of hefty profits bolstered by pandemic-driven online shopping.

“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 said.

Amazon booked $125.6bn in quarterly revenue – its first time passing the $100bn mark in a quarter – as consumers turned online for shopping and gifts during lockdown. Its total sales for 2020 clocked in at $386bn, netting $21.3bn in profit.

Amazon Web Services, its cloud computing and data centre division, reported sales to the tune of $45.4bn in 2020, with profits of $13.5bn. The company announced a number of new high-profile customers for AWS in 2020 including JPMorgan Chase, BMW and Zalando.

Amazon said it expects first quarter 2021 earnings to be above $100bn again but not as high as the last quarter, which benefited from the Christmas shopping period.

The last three months of 2020 featured a number of key expansion moves from Amazon as well, including the launch of Amazon Pharmacy in the US, the expansion of its grocery stores in more US cities, and continued investment in film and TV content for its streaming service.

It has been adding live sports broadcasting to its Prime Video service and said the last quarter had its “strongest viewership for live sports globally”.

The coronavirus pandemic may have been a boon for e-commerce and Amazon but the past year also brought a lot of criticism of Amazon’s dominant market position and its employment practices and safety protocols in its fulfilment centres, which led to worker strikes in some markets.

Amazon said it is “working to ensure that its front-line employees receive vaccines as soon as possible”.

“The company is closely monitoring the availability of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide, advocating on behalf of its employees, and working in partnership with global medical experts, governments, and health providers to accelerate vaccination programmes,” it added.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin