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Bezos Steps Away as CEO at Amazon, Citing Other Interests

'When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else...'

(Headline USA) Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as an online bookstore and built it into a shopping and entertainment behemoth, will step down later this year as CEO—a role he’s had for nearly 30 years—to become executive chairman, the company announced Tuesday.

Bezos, 57, will be replaced in the fall by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon’s cloud-computing business.

In a blog post to employees, Bezos said he planned to focus on new products and early initiatives being developed at Amazon.

He said he would have more time for side projects, including his space exploration company Blue Origin, his philanthropic initiatives and overseeing The Washington Post, which he owns.

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“As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition,” he said.

“… Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” he continued. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.”

Bezos, who is the company’s biggest shareholder, will still have broad influence over the company.

“Jeff is really not going anywhere,” Amazon executive Brian Olsavsky said in a call with reporters. “It’s more of a restructuring of who’s doing what.”

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Launched in 1995, Amazon has gone far beyond its early days of peddling paperbacks. It now produces movies, makes sofas, owns a grocery chain and even has plans to send satellites to space to beam internet service to earth.

The company is one of the most valuable in the world, worth nearly $1.7 trillion. Bezos’ riches have also swelled: His stake in Amazon is worth $180 billion.

Despite a few clashes and threats of antitrust legislation during the Trump administration, those riches continued to grow during the coronavirus pandemic.

While many suffered under the authoritarian lockdowns that confined citizens to their secluded homes and forced mom-and-pop businesses to close down, the mega-retailer was well equipped to meet the demand for doorstep deliveries, even pioneering drones to get the job done quicker.

Yet, scrutiny from regulators has also grown—even from Democrats who have often maintained a collegial relationship with their big-tech benefactors.

A report by the House Judiciary Committee in October called for possibly breaking up Amazon and others, making it harder for them to acquire companies and imposing new rules to safeguard competition.

Amazon is one of the last of the biggest tech giants to have a founder as CEO. Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin relinquished their executive positions in parent company Alphabet in 2019. Oracle’s Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO in 2014. Bill Gates, who was Microsoft’s CEO until 2000, kept a day-to-day role at the company until 2008 and served as its chairman until 2014. Gates left the board entirely last year to focus on philanthropy.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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