Alexa, what do you do after you’ve conquered the world? In an email to his employees, Amazon founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has announced he’ll be stepping down in Q3, with current head of Amazon Web Services Andy Jassy taking over. Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chairman, where he’ll be less involved in day-to-day operations but still focused on long-term strategy.
In his letter, Bezos wrote that, “In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives,” while investing more time in his personal and philanthropic projects. He continued, “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.”
The Day 1 Fund is $2 billion commitment to housing the homeless and building preschools in low-income areas; the Bezos Earth Fund is aimed at putting $10 billion into the hands of scientists and activists fighting climate change; and Blue Origin is his space exploration company. Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million.
Bezos was until quite recently the richest man on the planet, building his fortune on Internet innovation and exploitation of his workforce. Part of what makes his inexorable climb to the top so remarkable is how quickly it happened. After graduating from Princeton in 1986, Bezos worked in finance and by age 30 had become a Vice President at the hedge fund firm D.E. Shaw. Discontented with being merely wealthy, he came up with an ambitious plan to make himself filthy stinking rich, founding Amazon in his garage in 1994. Even at the company’s humble beginning, when it was essentially an online bookstore, Bezos talked about a company mission “broader than books.”
He’s succeeded. From a simple bookstore, Amazon has grown to the second-largest retailer in the world, and that doesn’t even count their other ventures, including owning nearly half of the globe’s public cloud infrastructure. The company has made an indelible mark on pop culture; Amazon Music is the third-largest music streaming platform, as well as the fastest-growing; and Amazon Studios has quickly become one of the deepest-pocketed backers of film and television projects. In 2017, Amazon Studios won three Academy Awards, beating Netflix to become the first streamer with an Oscar. In 2019, they set the record for most Emmys in a single award season.