Amazon.com Inc CEO Jeff Bezos handed the reins to his successor on Monday, marking the end of an era at the internet giant supercharged by the growth of new businesses.
Andy Jassy, until now the head of Amazon Web Services, became the company’s CEO on July 5, when the e-commerce company was incorporated in 1994.
Bezos led the massive tech company for three decades, making it a dominant force in online retail, cloud hosting, media production, and artificial intelligence.
In his new role as executive chairman, the richest person in the world – with a net worth of nearly $ 200 billion, according to the Forbes Index – will spend much of his time working tangentially on projects in the world. space and climate exploration.
Bezos isn’t really going to take a break, however. He and his brother, Mark, will take off on July 20 in the first human flight for Blue Origin LLC, Amazon’s private sister company.
While Amazon admirers see its role in the company’s expansion as a heroic mission to give everyday shoppers low-cost access to any item in the sun, its critics suggest that the Bezos’ ethics have contributed to poor working conditions and harmful monopoly practices.
Amazon has also faced increasing pressure from antitrust regulators to consider whether its market dominance is hurting consumers, or whether the company has simply managed to beat the competition in a fair but ruthless fight for market share.
How will Bezos – the man, the myth, the legend – be remembered as a new CEO takes over at Amazon? And how will the company’s $ 1.75 trillion market cap change as it pulls out amid loud calls from critics to break up the conglomerate?
Bezos has transformed Amazon from a fledgling online bookstore into a massive internet institution that currently ranks both as the world’s largest digital sales company and as an internet business in terms of revenue.
Beyond its web marketplace, Amazon is also the number one cloud service provider and “Alexa” is the best virtual assistant in the world.
“He must go down in American history as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, along with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).
“In 1994, you could see that the computing power was doubling every 18 months, and they knew at one point that you would have portable devices like the iPhone that would make connectivity much faster and cheaper,” he said. he told Al Jazeera.
“[Bezos] seen these trends and has had a transformative effect on the way people buy things, ”Atkinson added.
He said the creation of Amazon Prime, a subscription service for faster delivery of purchases and streaming of premium media content that now serves 200 million people, was a key milestone that has made Bezos a pioneer – despite failures like the Fire Phone.
Atkinson also pointed to the company’s wave of automation, machine learning and robotics, citing these advancements as ultimately beneficial to workers. The company added 500,000 workers in 2020 alone and now employs 1.3 million people worldwide.
While tech advocates believe these advancements will make life easier for manual workers and enrich society in the United States and elsewhere, skeptics have doubts.
“Dark World Life”
Jobs at Amazon’s fulfillment centers are very demanding, with the company taking political criticism for not treating its workforce better. Campaigners hoped in vain – following a failed Alabama organizing campaign – that a shareholder resolution in May would put an hourly worker on the board.
Lebaron Sims, associate director of policy and research at progressive think tank Demos, told Al Jazeera that Amazon’s rise bears strong similarities to the trajectory of big box retailer Walmart.
“Amazon’s version isn’t as insidious or parasitic, but is much larger in scale,” Sims said, referring to both “their lowest prices driven by their lowest wages”.
“The way I will remember [Bezos] and its lasting legacy will be an almost cynical and dark worldview that has informed Amazon’s institutional design and its connection to core delivery people, ”Sims added, suggesting that the outgoing CEO views warehouse workers as“ lazy. And relied on “constant surveillance and threats to oversee their work.”
The company has faced recent controversy for denying that its drivers are forced to urinate in water bottles. And entrepreneurs have spoken out against being terminated via email by malicious algorithms, although they apparently haven’t done anything wrong.
“Revenue, churn, and physical operation are built into every level of their business model,” Sims said, calling employees “serfs dependent solely on the benevolence of their lord.”
“But this essential [Amazon] The infrastructure of the Internet is a remarkable testament to Bezos’ vision, whether you think that vision is reasonable or not, scary or not, ”Sims said.
Other critics say Amazon’s ending the risk premium amid the coronavirus pandemic – a booming time for its business – was wrong.
Meanwhile, investments in research and development have helped the company receive massive tax breaks of $ 2.3 billion in 2020, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Amazon on Wednesday asked the new president of the United States Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, to step down from investigating the company because of its past antitrust criticism – a move that came just weeks after the prosecutor General of the District of Columbia has filed a lawsuit accusing Amazon of price fixing.
“What makes us special”
In addition to the purchase of Whole Foods Market in 2017, new directions for the company could bear fruit – if risky bets like Amazon Care, an on-demand telehealth service to launch this summer, and Project Kuiper, a broadband satellite initiative, turn out to be good business decisions.
Going forward, Amazon aims to disrupt the tough healthcare and telecommunications industries, which face massive headwinds by offering affordable prices for the best technology available.
An employee email Bezos sent in February confirmed that he will be spending much of his time moving forward largely on his non-Amazon projects. But as Amazon’s executive chairman, he will always be involved in key strategic initiatives like workplace safety – like trying to reduce the rate of musculoskeletal disorders, which account for 40% of the company’s workplace injuries. .
With his Washington Post newspaper evolving beyond the “Trump bump” in which digital subscriptions have tripled, Bezos, 57, has plenty to keep him busy outside of Amazon.
The outgoing CEO plans to devote considerable attention to the Bezos Earth Fund, a private philanthropic effort aimed at solving the crucial global warming problem to the tune of $ 1 billion a year over the next decade.
However, environmental officials at Amazon say more can be done from their opaque Seattle boardroom.
“Amazon’s climate goals are not yet reaching the scale or understanding we need,” said a statement from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice provided to Al Jazeera, recommending that the company aim for zero emissions by here. 2030.
They added: “Amazon has yet to recognize that its pollution is concentrated in communities of color.”
But Bezos is increasingly oriented towards space, where his Blue Origin has seen a string of engineering successes. Yet the jury is still out on whether the Bezos-funded outfit is more of a vanity project for wealthy space tourists or a vehicle to launch Amazon satellites into the ether.
Either way, in his March 2021 letter to Amazon shareholders, Bezos set the bar very high for his successor: “I guarantee you Andy won’t let the universe make us typical.”
“It will bring together the energy to keep alive in us what makes us special,” Bezos wrote. “It won’t be easy, but it’s essential,” he added, hinting at his own shift in focus ahead.
“What motivates people like Bezos is not to run businesses, but to start businesses,” said Atkinson, chairman of the think tank ITIF. “Builders don’t like to manage. They like to build.