What Do You Do After You Conquer the World?
Bloomberg Businessweek|February 08, 021
JeffBezos’ surprise resignation as the CEO of Amazon seems somehow natural and even inevitable
Brad Stone

JeffBezos has a formulation about one-way doors and two-way doors—decisions that are irreversible and permanent and those that can always be unwound. Stepping through what’s almost certainly a one-way door on Feb. 2, Bezos said he will resign as chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc. and become executive chairman later this year. He’ll hand day to-day control to Andy Jassy, the longtime head of Amazon Web Services, a swiftly growing division that’s almost single-handedly changed the way companies buy the technology that powers their businesses.

With that comes at least a partial end to one of the most epic runs in business history. Yet Bezos’ move feels, in many ways, natural and even inevitable. Over the past 25 years the Amazon founder, now 57, led the company through perhaps the most fertile period of any American business ever. Amazon began as just an idea at the Wall Street hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co., where Bezos was a vice president; it was an online bookseller and era-defining dot-com stock during the late 1990s. Bezos then rescued the company from the internet bust by inventing and guiding creations such as Kindle, Amazon Prime, and AWS. Along the way, he minted an idiosyncratic corporate culture, where employees almost religiously adhere to 14 leadership principles (“invent and simplify,” “customer obsession,” etc.) and constantly write belabored six-page documents that, at the start of meetings, are read by all attendees in almost sacred silence.

While that culture has drawn criticism for being difficult, even punishing, particularly for employees seeking work-life balance, it’s also been unmistakably effective: Over the past decade, Bezos has piloted Amazon to a $1.7 trillion market capitalization, where it occupies the same rarefied 13-figure air as Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

But Bezos’ decision to step down also reflects an uncomfortable reality for one of the wealthiest people in the world: The walls of his highly compartmentalized empire have been crumbling for some time. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be JeffBezos (at least by his own standards). He presides over a collection of properties that spans not only Amazon but also the Washington Post, several philanthropies, and a space company, Blue Origin LLC, that lags far behind its chief rival, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Just consider the ways the various Bezos assets have collided over the past few years. His ownership of the Post consistently angered the last U.S. president and probably cost Amazon the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract, which the Trump-controlled Defense Department,awarded to Microsoft. When he traveled to India in early 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declined to meet with him, and a senior official criticized the Post’s coverage of the country.

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