Amazon said Tuesday that Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO later this year, a role he's had since he founded the company nearly 30 years ago.
Amazon said he'll be replaced in the fall by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon's cloud business. Bezos (57) will then become the company's executive chairman. Former corporate lawyer Jassey joined Amazon Web Services as marketing manager in 1997, when the division had just two dozen staff.
Bezos founded Amazon as an online bookstore and turned it into a behemoth that sells just about everything. In the process, he became one of the world's richest people.
He has recently being jostling with Tesla founder Elon Musk for the title of the planet's most wealthy person, depending on the daily performance of their respective company's stock.
Forbes recently estimated Bezos' wealth at US$196.5b ($257), ahead of Musk on US$177b.
After their 2019 divorce, Bezos' ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott received a US$60b settlement, making her one of the world's richest women. She has since given more than US$b to charity.
"Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition," Bezos said in a statement.
His company is certainly at its most profitable ever.
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.
Wall Street had expected quarterly revenue of US$119.7b, 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 $1b-$4.5b 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 $4b in the fourth quarter alone — or the Herculean effort to hire more than 400,000 workers since the onset of the pandemic.
Amazon is best known as the company that patented one-click buying, but its e-tail operation has since been eclipsed in size by its cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, which has become easily the globe's largest web-hosting and cloud services company. Amazon also operates Prime Video, the largest streaming service outside of Netflix. Prime is currently shooting a $1b Lord of the Rings adaption in West Auckland - the most expensive TV series ever.
Alongside its commercial success, Amazon has faced a number of workplace controversies - the latest being an order by the US Federal Trade Commission to pay nearly US$62m to settle charges that it pocketed tips from its delivery drivers.
Rumours that Amazon will establish a direct presence in New Zealand have so far failed to pan out, with some pundits saying NZ is just too small for the company's business model, which relies on scale.
The main e-tail trend has instead seen key local players being sold offshore, including Mighty Ape (recently picked up by Australia's Kogan for $128m) and Trade Me (sold to a European private equity company for $2.56b).
In 2013, Bezos moved into publishing, buying the Washington Post, which subsequently introduced a paywall.
The Herald became one of the first customers for the Post's publishing-as-a-service platform, Arc.
With reporting by AP