From a modest online bookstore launched in his garage to a space flight scheduled for July 20, the trajectory of the richest man in the world is entering a new phase. After having built one of the most powerful companies on the planet, Amazon, Jeff Bezos, 57, will leave his place of general manager to his lieutenant Andy Jassy on Monday, July 5, to devote himself to other projects. He will retain a key role in the company he founded just twenty-seven years ago by remaining executive chairman of its board of directors.
If he has been praised for the many innovations which have sometimes shaken up entire economic sectors, he has also been vilified for certain business practices that tend to crush competition or for the treatment of his employees. Whether it is the sale of books, cloud computing or home delivery, “Bezos is a leader who encourages change”says Darrell West of the Center for Technological Innovation at the Brookings Institution think tank. “It gave the impetus to many services that people now take for granted, such as shopping online, ordering something and having it delivered the next day.”, he remarks.
Amazon is now worth more than 1,700 billion dollars on the stock market (1,433 billion euros) and in 2020 generated a turnover of 386 billion dollars (325 billion euros). It’s a sprawling group, from e-commerce and cloud computing to groceries, artificial intelligence and film production.
“The instinct to find what will work”
Bezos “Has the instinct to find what will work” in the next market, says Roger Kay, analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates. The company supplanted its rivals by choosing the early years of “Reinvest all profits in growth”, recalls Mr. Kay. This strategy has sometimes puzzled investors, but it “Seems completely logical” now, he points out.
For Bob O’Donnell, Technalysis Research, Jeff Bezos “Was not the first or the only” in the online business niche, “But he knew [le] understand and worked to improve it “. The boss of Amazon has in particular “Understood the need to build infrastructure”whether it’s its extensive warehouse network or its fleet of trucks, notes O’Donnell. “A lot of other companies didn’t want to spend the money on this thankless behind-the-scenes job. “
His company’s fortune has also been his own: even after giving his ex-wife part of his shares in Amazon after his divorce, Jeff Bezos is currently worth around $ 200 billion (168 billion euros), according to the magazine Forbes. He is giving up the day-to-day running of his business to spend more time on other projects, for example the first space tourism flight of his other company Blue Origin, which will take place on July 20 – he himself will be on board. The businessman also owns the newspaper Washington Post and said he wanted to spend time and money on tackling climate change.
He leaves as Amazon, which employs more than 800,000 people in the United States after seeing its activity soar during the pandemic, faces much criticism from advocates for employees or regulators.
Amazon highlights the fact that the company offers a minimum hourly wage of $ 15 and various benefits, but critics regularly denounce the obsession with efficiency and the consequent risk of inhuman treatment of employees. In his last annual letter to shareholders in April, and after an unsuccessful attempt to organize at a warehouse of his group in Alabama, Jeff Bezos acknowledged that the group had to do better for its employees and promised that Amazon would become “The best employer on Earth”.
Worried about the growing stranglehold of a few tech giants over entire sections of the economy, regulators are considering measures to partially dismantle Amazon. Amazon could thus become “Victim of his own success”, says Mr. Kay. Even if the group were to split into several entities, each of them “Would thrive in its own market”, he predicts. “I can easily imagine a scenario where the sum of the parts turns out to be greater than the unified whole. Shareholders should not suffer. “