Amazon Without Jeff Bezos


Sucharita Kodali, an e-commerce specialist at the research firm Forrester, told me that Amazon might now focus even more on AWS and fighting its muscular competitors in cloud computing, as well as technology-heavy parts of the company like digital advertising and hardware gadgets. It might focus less on groceries or fashion. “C.E.O.s have favorite children,” Kodali said.

Bezos is still a power on the throne but … Bezos isn’t going to sit at home and eat potato chips. His new job title starting this summer, executive chairman of the board, implies that he’s still going to play a big role in the company, and Amazon said that he would have a hand in major decisions. Jassy is steeped in Bezos’s brand of Amazon, and institutions often have inertia that persists no matter who is in charge.

But make no mistake: This is a changing of the guard, as my colleague Karen Weise wrote. Companies don’t stay the same when their founders stop being in charge. Amazon might still be Bezos’s company, but I would bet it gets less so over time.

(Read more on the Amazon news from my friends at the DealBook newsletter, and Kara Swisher in The New York Times Opinion section.)

Goodbye or the long goodbye? There are two ways to hand off the C.E.O. job: The former boss sticks around — at least for a while — to smooth the transition and provide advice, or he disappears. Amazon is doing the former, as did Disney and Oracle. Uber did the latter and Microsoft has done one of each.

It’s hard to know which path is best, but founders do cast a long shadow. Arguably, Google suffered when its co-founder Larry Page stuck around for years as an amorphous boss above bosses after he gave up the C.E.O. post in 2015. When Satya Nadella took over at Microsoft, it looked like his predecessors, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, would still have a hand in decisions. It was better for him and Microsoft that they quietly stepped back instead.

Why now? Bezos is so widely admired that he has been able to dabble in side projects like space travel, buy a newspaper, grab a role in a “Star Trek” movie, play competitive badminton and run Amazon however he wished. (One of those I made up.) Bezos says he wants to devote more attention now to futuristic projects and his other interests, but Elon Musk has done that and stayed the C.E.O. of Tesla.



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Jonny Richards

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