In the second major executive announcement from Amazon in the last 12 months (Jeff Wilke gave notice over the summer), Jeff Bezos announced he was “stepping down” as CEO. We use the quotes here since, by all accounts, the change in roles isn’t happening for another two quarters and Bezos will remain a major shareholder and closely involved as Executive Chairman, more focused on new projects/vision.
Many of us at Wunderman Thompson Commerce were lucky enough to work with these leaders while at Amazon and got to personally see how they formed the company to their vision. While everyone associates Amazon’s success with Bezos, Wilke was, in many ways, nearly as important, having been the inspiration behind so many of Amazon’s fulfillment center investments and wins. Together, the two leaders infused the company with a vision that carried throughout the ranks. And more importantly, Andy Jassy makes a great choice as successor, having closely worked with Jeff Bezos in the early days and later steering AWS to great success.
In a sign of how the market saw the news and choice of successor, Amazon stock was relatively unaffected (or slightly up) after the announcement. This matches how we have seen it as well: What makes Amazon strong originally was due in many ways to Bezos’ vision but much of that is ingrained now and both those individuals are still a phone away.
In a second development that would have been major news if the Bezos announcement hadn’t eclipsed it, Amazon released Q4 earnings. It’s always difficult to beat a prior Q4 (since that is the strongest quarter) but Amazon did it while simultaneously hiring 175K new people. It feels like COVID hit them hardest in Q2, meaning they had to innovate solutions to adapt and grow then, allowing them to reap the benefits of that infrastructure expansion in Q4, exploding into 44% growth (strongly exceeding expectations and 2019’s 38% marker).