As far as quarterly earnings reports go, this one is among the more interesting. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he will be stepping down from CEO in the third quarter of 2021 to the role of Executive Chair. Bezos will be replaced by Andy Jassy, who is currently the CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Jassy has been with the company since 1997.
It is interesting that the new CEO comes from the AWS side of the house rather than the “consumer” side, which was historically led by Jeff Wilke. Wilke is retiring in Q1 2021, to be replaced by Dave Clark, who has a background in operations. These recent shifts in leadership suggests the company will focus on building out the tech side of their business, while they’ve traditionally focused on the retail side of the house.
Bezos communicated directly to Amazon’s 1.3 million employees via an email sent on Tuesday. He explained the reason for his departure as, “Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.”
He went on to explain his new role as Executive Chair, “I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions. I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.”
Leave it to Amazon to draw headlines away from what would otherwise be absolutely staggering growth for a company of its size. In the fourth quarter:
Amazon’s operating income of $6.9B breaks the company’s previous record of $6.3B, which was set in Q3 of 2020 after breaking the previous quarter’s record.
Amazon reported strong growth in every quarter of 2020, so it’s no surprise that their yearly results are on par.
The strong growth in advertising revenue and third-party seller services indicates that Amazon is content to have brands work with third-parties, taking on inventory risk, while they continue enhancing the marketplace and limit their direct relationships to major brands. Jassy’s background in AWS may also lead to further enhancements to Seller Central and the advertising console, which saw several upgrades in 2020.
The company remains the dominant player in ecommerce, but their stocks have remained steady in the hours immediately following Bezos’s announcement. The recent turbulence seen in the stock market around Robinhood, Reddit, and hedge funds may also be a factor.
However, Amazon’s financial guidance forecasts net sales to grow 33% to 44% YoY. It seems that Bezos will leave Jassy well positioned to assume his new role.
Amazon shattered its previous earnings records three quarters in a row. The pandemic also drew attention away from the SHOP SAFE Act, which would hope Amazon accountable for counterfeits sold on its platform. The act was referred to the house committee on the judiciary in March 2020. The committee published a 450 report with their findings from a 16–month antitrust investigation, but nothing has come of it yet.
Though purely speculation, it may be that COVID-19’s impact on commerce – specifically, accelerating the adoption of online shopping and consuming the public’s attention – placed Bezos in a position where he could comfortably pass the reins.
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