Amazon's new CEO faces antitrust and worker pressure

New York (CNN Business)Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Monday will hand over his chief executive title to Andy Jassy, ending a more than two-decade run leading the company through its evolution from online bookseller to $1.75 trillion global retail, logistics and internet behemoth.

The company announced in February that Bezos would transition from CEO to executive chair, saying he wanted to spend more time on his other ventures, including the Washington Post, space company Blue Origin and philanthropy.
But even as he steps back into a less public role at the company, Bezos will still have tremendous influence at Amazon (AMZN) for years to come, by virtue of being its largest individual shareholder, a longtime mentor to the incoming CEO and his role heading the board.

    Meet Andy Jassy, the next CEO of Amazon
    “He’ll likely still stay involved, though no longer focusing on the day-to-day and instead able to focus on company-wide initiatives and new products and services,” said Daniel Elman, global technology analyst at market research firm Nucleus Research. “His skills for cutting through noise identifying high-value opportunities cannot be overstated … so it would make sense for Amazon to free him from the operational grind to maximize those areas.”

      Bezos’ exit as CEO comes at a critical time for Amazon. The pandemic created massive demand for its services, leading to jumps in profits and in hiring. But the company’s explosive growth has only heightened the attention of regulators, some of whom believe it has gotten too big.

      Not having the richest man on Earth at the company’s helm could help it better weather some of that scrutiny. And stepping aside could also help insulate Bezos from some lawmaker criticism.
      “I’m pretty sure somebody along the way saw [the regulatory attention] and said, ‘Here’s another advantage of this timing,'” said James Bailey, professor of leadership development at George Washington University.
      Amazon has also recently faced criticism for its treatment of warehouse workers, something Bezos has pledged to address as executive chair.
      “Bezos needs to stop being the lightning rod” on the issue of Amazon’s labor practices, said William Klepper, professor of management at Columbia Business School, “and instead innovate his way out of this.”
      The timing of Bezos’ transition in many ways mirrors that of other Silicon Valley founders, for whom giving up the CEO title meant losing much of the harsh spotlight but not necessarily all of the power.
      Google’s cofounders, for example, forfeited their executive titles in 2019 amid mounting regulatory scrutiny of the company, but they remain on the board and hold a special class of stock that gives them voting control as shareholders.

      Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is photographed in Seattle in 2017.

      Bezos is seen in 1996, a year after he started At the time it was just an online bookseller.

      Bezos and Sotheby's president and CEO Diana Brooks pose in a customized Volkswagen Beetle from the film "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" in 1999. Sotheby's and Amazon had teamed up to launch, an online auction site that would offer a broad range of objects, including this car.

      Bezos holds a power drill and a stuffed Pikachu in 1999. By this point, Amazon had started to sell items other than books.

      Gregory Nixon, left, delivers a set of antique golf clubs he sold to David Robichaud, center, via Auctions in 1999. Bezos was there for the moment, as Robichaud, a construction worker, was Amazon's 10-millionth customer.

      In 1999, Bezos was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

      Bezos looks on as Microsoft CEO Bill Gates presents a T-shirt as a retirement gift to Clippy, the Microsoft Office assistant, in 2001. Microsoft was launching Office XP.

      Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, arrive at a media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2003. They divorced in 2019 after 25 years of marriage.

      Jeff Bezos stands with one of Amazon's trademark door-desks at the company's Seattle headquarters in 2004.

      Bezos introduces the Kindle e-reader at a news conference in 2007.

      Bezos announces the Kindle DX in 2009.

      Bezos, third from left, meets with NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver at the Blue Origin headquarters in Kent, Washington, in 2011. Bezos' Blue Origin was started in 2000 with the goal of providing low-cost access to private space travel.

      Bezos holds up the new Kindle Fire HD during a news conference in Santa Monica, California, in 2012.

      Bezos appears on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" in 2012.

      Bezos unveils the Fire Phone during an event in Seattle in 2014.

      Bezos poses on a truck while visiting Bangalore, India, in 2014.

      Bezos tours The Washington Post's new offices in 2016. Bezos bought the newspaper in 2013.

      Bezos listens to first lady Michelle Obama at a White House event in 2016. The event announced commitments from more than 50 companies to hire and train veterans and military spouses. Bezos announced a commitment by Amazon to hire 25,000 more military veterans in the next five years.

      Bezos joins "Transparent" actor Jeffrey Tambor and director Jill Soloway after the Amazon Studios show won Emmys in 2016.

      Bezos discusses his Blue Origin reusable rocket system in 2017. Reusable rockets would substantially reduce the cost of space flight.

      US President Donald Trump and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella listen to Bezos at a White House meeting of the American Technology Council in 2017. According to the White House, the council's goal is "to explore how to transform and modernize government information technology."

      Bezos tours the Spheres, a gathering and working space for Amazon employees, at its opening ceremonies in Seattle in 2018. The space contains hundreds of plant species from cloud forest environments around the globe, and it maintains a tropical climate similar to Costa Rica or Indonesia.

      Bezos shakes hands with Kim Kardashian West while attending the Met Gala in New York in 2019. Actor Jared Leto is on the right.

      Bezos is joined by the children from the Blue Origin Club for the Future in 2019. At the event in Washington, DC, Bezos unveiled a Blue Origin prototype of a lunar lander.

      Bezos shows off Blue Moon, Blue Origin's lunar landing prototype, in 2019.

      Bezos announces the co-founding of The Climate Pledge in 2019. Bezos' broad plan to fight climate change includes meeting the Paris climate agreement 10 years early. That would make the company carbon-neutral by 2040. Bezos also announced that Amazon would purchase 100,000 electric vans.

      Bezos stands next to Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as a plaque is unveiled near the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2019. It was a year after Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed.

      Bezos sits between his girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez, and Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour at a Tom Ford fashion show in Los Angeles in February 2020.

      Bezos testifies before a House subcommittee during an antitrust hearing in July 2020. Other powerful tech figures, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, were also questioned about their competitive tactics.

      In December 2020, Bezos <a href="" target="_blank">posted this photo</a> of him and his mother, Jacklyn, after Blue Origin's rocket-catching recovery boat was named in her honor.

      From left, Oliver Daemen, Bezos, Wally Funk and Bezos' brother Jeff pose for a picture after <a href="" target="_blank">flying into space</a> in July 2021. The trip marked the first-ever crewed flight of Blue Origin's suborbital space tourism rocket, New Shepard.

      Bezos doesn’t have quite the same outsized shareholder voting power, but he remains Amazon’s largest shareholder by a big margin. As of last month, Bezos owned 51.2 million shares — or around 10% — of Amazon common stock, much more than the next largest shareholder Vanguard Group, which holds around 6.5%.
      That means if a shareholder initiative seeks to make a major change at the company, Bezos’ voting power could give him some sway in the outcome, said Bailey.
      Bezos also will almost certainly continue to have the ear of incoming CEO Jassy. The two have worked closely since the company’s early days. In the early 2000s, Jassy spent time in a position referred to at the time as Bezos’ “shadow,” a role similar to a corporate chief of staff, which was designed to train promising young execs, Ann Hiatt, a former executive business partner to Bezos, told CNN Business in February. Jassy went on to become a longtime member of Bezos’ elite leadership group, the “S-team.”

        If there’s a clear model for what Bezos’ role change might look like at Amazon, it could be the other Seattle-based tech founder who previously held the title of world’s richest man.
        When Bill Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000, Microsoft was one of the world’s most powerful companies, but it was also in the midst of a years-long antitrust battle and facing the possibility of being broken up by the US government. At the time, Gates was seen as a ruthless monopolist, but his focus on philanthropy in the following years helped him cultivate a different reputation as a global do-gooder, all while he maintained a leadership role at Microsoft (MSFT) for two decades — until last year.
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