Jeff Bezos to step down as CEO of Amazon

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Rob Lever – Agence France-Presse in Washington

At 57, the businessman will leave his place as CEO to his lieutenant Andy Jassy on Monday to focus on other projects, starting with a trip into space on July 20.

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Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, is entering a new phase in his career after building one of the most powerful companies on the planet, Amazon, from a modest online bookstore. The businessman handed over his position as CEO to his lieutenant Andy Jassy on Monday to focus on other projects.

The Amazon boss will retain a key role in the company he founded just 27 years ago by remaining executive chairman of its board. But he is giving up the day-to-day management of his company to spend more time on other projects, like his other company Blue Origin, which will make its first space tourism flight on July 20. The entrepreneur also owns the Washington Post newspaper and has said he wants to spend time and money fighting climate change.

While he has been praised for numerous innovations that have sometimes disrupted entire economic sectors, he has also been strongly criticized for certain business practices that tend to crush the competition or for the treatment of his employees.

Whether it’s book selling, cloud computing or home delivery, “Bezos is a leader who encourages change,” says Darrell West of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Technology Innovation.

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“He has provided the impetus for many services that people now take for granted, like shopping online, ordering something and having it delivered the next day,” he notes.

Launched in Jeff Bezos’s garage, where he used to do the shipping himself, Amazon is now worth more than US$1.7 trillion on the stock market and in 2020 had revenues of US$386 billion. It is a sprawling group, from online shopping to cloud computing, grocery, artificial intelligence and film production.

His company’s fortune has also made it his own: even after selling off part of his stake in Amazon to his ex-wife after his divorce, Jeff Bezos is currently worth about US$200 billion according to Forbes magazine.

Harmful expansion?

Mr. Bezos is leaving at a time when Amazon, which employs more than 800,000 people in the United States, is facing a lot of criticism from employee advocates or regulators.

The company touts the fact that it offers a minimum hourly wage of $15 in addition to various benefits, but critics regularly point to its obsession with efficiency.

In his last annual letter to shareholders in April, and after a failed attempt to unionize at one of his group’s Alabama warehouses, Jeff Bezos acknowledged that the group needed to do better for its employees and promised that Amazon would become “the best employer on Earth.”

Concerned about the growing stranglehold of a few tech giants on entire sectors of the economy, regulators are considering measures to partially dismantle Amazon.

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