Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to step aside as chief executive this year

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos will step aside later this year to become executive chairman, making way for Andy Jassy, who currently heads up its cloud computing division, AWS, to replace him in the role.

The Amazon founder, 57, said on Tuesday that it was an “optimal time” to make the move.

Mr Bezos has been chief executive of Amazon since its founding in 1994, during which time he became one of the world’s wealthiest people, with a net worth today of almost $200bn, according to Forbes.

The announcement comes as the company posted record quarterly revenues of $125.6bn, up more than 40 per cent on the same period last year, and comfortably beating Wall Street’s expectations.

“When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention,” Mr Bezos said. “Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

Unlike previous years, the quarter included the company’s “Prime Day” sales event, which was pushed back into the holiday period from the summer.

Wall Street had expected quarterly revenue of $119.7bn, according to FactSet. Operating income for the period was $6.9bn, well above Amazon’s prior guidance and analyst consensus.

The company had expected between $1bn-$4.5bn in quarterly operating income, the wide range attributed to continued uncertainty over the costs of managing the coronavirus pandemic.

Wall Street expected Amazon to hit the high-end of that estimate, but analysts remain wary of mounting costs, whether from specific Covid-19 measures — expected to be $4bn in the fourth quarter alone — or the Herculean effort to hire more than 400,000 workers since the onset of the pandemic.

Line chart of Amazon annual revenue ($bn) showing Sales soar at the 'Everything Store'

Analysts at Jefferies said the rapid growth of Amazon’s own delivery network would have given it an additional edge over competitors, however. Other retailers have been held back by limited shipping capacity and delays.

Logistics consultant Marc Wulfraat estimated that Amazon delivered 5bn of its own packages to customers in the US — 67 per cent of all its orders — versus 2.5bn in 2019. On Tuesday, US regulators announced a $61.7m settlement with Amazon to repay drivers for tips allegedly wrongfully withheld.

As well as reducing shipping costs for Amazon, the company’s own network helps it shorten delivery times — the key driver of membership to its Prime programme. The number of Prime members is expected to have grown by about 20 per cent globally, to 180m.