USA TODAY International Edition

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to step down this summer

The surprise move announced Tuesday puts Andy Jassy at the helm of the company, while Bezos transition­s to executive chair.

- Jessica Guynn and Kelly Tyko Contributi­ng: Nathan Bomey and Charisse Jones

Amazon announced Tuesday that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO this summer and hand off the retail juggernaut to Andy Jassy, who runs the cloud computing business.

Bezos, one of the world’s most powerful business figures and also one of its wealthiest, will transition to the role of executive chairman.

The surprise announceme­nt came as Amazon reported record fourth- quarter sales that topped $ 100 billion for the first time.

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

Like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Bezos is closely associated with his company’s brand.

Since founding Amazon as an online bookseller nearly 30 years ago, he has expanded into selling just about anything. On his watch, the company grew into a $ 1.7 trillion retail monolith that employs more than 1.2 million workers.

“Amazon is big simply because it has given customers what they want. To grow it had to take share from other giants of retail, some of which were once seen as unassailab­le,” Neil Saunders, managing director of consultanc­y GlobalData Retail, said in a statement.

Among Amazon’s biggest success stories is its cloud computing business, which launched in 2006 led by Jassy, who has long been viewed as Bezos’ heir apparent. Jassy’s ascension was made possible in August when the company announced that another possible successor, Jeff Wilke, would soon retire.

In a letter to employees, Bezos said that as executive chairman he would focus on new products and early initiative­s. Amazon’s new leader has his “full confidence,” Bezos said.

Though he became more involved last spring, Bezos had stepped away from Amazon’s day- to- day business in recent years, dabbling in other ventures, from a private space company Blue Origin to The Washington Post.

“This transition may free up Bezos to focus on other ideas that he’s been accumulati­ng over the years,” Tim Hubbard, assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said in an email.

After buying The Washington Post for $ 250 million in 2013, Bezos gave the newspaper the financial wherewitha­l to achieve a turnaround by investing in newsgather­ing, technologi­cal upgrades and a digital subscripti­on strategy.

The role also brought him unwanted scrutiny. During President Donald Trump’s administra­tion, the president accused Bezos of using The Post as a tool to achieve political outcomes that bettered the newspaper.

In 2019, Bezos said lawyers for supermarke­t tabloid National Enquirer owner American Media Inc. tried to blackmail him into getting The Post to drop its investigat­ion into the company’s ties to Trump.

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