Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, will step down as chief executive of the e-commerce giant, turning over the reins to the company’s longtime cloud-computing boss Andy Jassy.

Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter, the company said as it announced fourth-quarter earnings.

“If you do it right, 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,” Bezos said an earnings release Tuesday.
The looming transition marks the most radical shake-up in Amazon’s corporate ranks in its nearly 30-year history. Under Bezos’s stewardship, Amazon evolved from an upstart online bookseller into one of the world’s most popular Internet marketplaces able to quickly deliver a vast catalogue of products and services. It also developed a massive, profit-driving cloud computing business that now powers websites around the world.

The company‘s meteoric growth delivered massive riches to shareholders and made Bezos — depending on the day — the richest man on the planet. For all the praise on Wall Street, however, Bezos and his brass-knuckled tactics also carried great cost. Regulators increasingly viewed Amazon as a threat to competition, and the company’s own workers at times told grim tales about their mistreatment, as they sought to carry out Bezos’s mission as the consumer-first “everything store.”

Bezos, who turned 57 last month and is one of the world’s wealthiest people, set up the transition to Jassy last summer, when the company announced that one of its likely successors, Jeff Wilke, would soon retire. That paved the way for Jassy to take the CEO job.

Bezos’s own interests have changed over the years as he personally pushed into new industries. That included launching his own space-travel company, Blue Origin, and funding new philanthropic efforts. He said in a note to employees Tuesday that he would focus on these other gambits, including The Post, which he purchased in 2013.

“When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else,” he said.

Amazon’s finance chief Brian Olsavsky said Bezos will remain “very involved” even after he moves into his new role.

“We expect a lot of continuity with this transition,” Olsavsky said in a call with journalists Tuesday afternoon. Bezos, he added, is “is going to have his imprint on new product developments and also key leverage [in] areas of innovation.”

Olsavsky declined to say when Bezos first approached the board about the transition to a new role, except to say that it had been planned and was done in consultation with Amazon’s directors. Five years ago, Amazon changed its management structure, naming both Jassy and Wilke division CEOs, and Olsavsky said this transition was similar.

“We see the same thing happening here,” Olsavsky said. “Jeff is going to remain with Amazon in a very important role as executive chair.”

What’s more, Bezos remains Amazon’s largest individual shareholder.

“Jeff is really not going anywhere,” Olsavsky said. “This is more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”

Source: The Washington Post