Amid Stellar Sales and Profits, Amazon's Bezos Steps Down

Amazon, always fond of quarterly financial results that surprise people, unleashed a doozy: Jeff Bezos, founder and chairman, will step down as CEO, paving the way for Amazon Web Services exec Andy Jassy to take over.

The company says Bezos is set to transition to executive chair in the third quarter.

 “Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal,” says Bezos in the announcement, citing innovations like 1-Click, Kindle and Alexa.

”A few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. 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.”



Jassy, currently the CEO of AWS, has been with that division for more than 23 years.

The Seattle-based ecommerce giant also posted its fourth-quarter results, once again proving itself the beneficiary of the pandemic’s push to online shopping.

In results that beat Wall Street expectations, net sales jumped 44% to $125.6 billion–the first time they crossed the $100 billion mark. That compares to $87.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019. (Excluding foreign exchange rates, throughout net sales climbed 42%.)

And net income rose to $7.2 billion for the quarter,  compared with net income of $3.3 billion in the comparable period a year ago.

Sales at AWS rose from $9.95 billion to $12.74 billion.

The results “well exceeded guidance,” writes Charlie O’Shea, vice president of Moody’s, in his analysis of the results. He says the banner quarter was “spurred by the retail sales explosion due to the COVID-related surge in online shopping, the delayed Prime Day, and typical holiday volume.”

He points out that as AWS continues to “hum along,” it generated more than half of Amazon’s overall operating income.

The company also made a flurry of other announcements, including the next phase of its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. At $2.5 billion, the design looks like a double helix, a tree-covered glass structure full of “alternative work environments.”

And it’s also shelling out $61.7 million to the Federal Trade Commission, settling a beef that it withheld tips from drivers.

Of course, it’s not like Bezos has to work. After briefly losing that honor to Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, he’s reportedly reclaimed his title as the world’s richest man.

“While the new position is big news, the truth is that Mr. Bezos will remain fully involved with the company,” writes Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, in his comment on Amazon’s results. “Indeed, as part of his new role, Bezos will be able to focus more on new ideas – something in which he excels. He will also still be around to guide the company and ensure that it does not lose its innovative edge.”

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