Sunday, February 25, 2024

Jeff Bezos doesn’t have time to be Amazon CEO

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Hi people. Sure Groundhog released a video on Tuesday and decided to sell his lifetime rights for a movie on his annual habit. Should we tell him that there have already been two films and a show on this subject? Worse yet, the kind of sequel just had a Golden globe name.

The simple view

When I heard this week that Jeff Bezos resign as the CEO of Amazon – the trillion dollar e-commerce and cloud computing giant that made him one of the richest humans in the world – I thought back to a conversation we had in July 2018, on a hot sweltering summer day in West Texas. I came to visit Blue Origin launch installation, a non-Amazonian space exploration project to which he devoted one day a week. Bezos told me that the immense personal resources he had amassed had freed him. “I won’t be spending time in my life working on something that I don’t think is important,” he tells me. “I’m not going to do it. I don’t need to do this.

You don’t like to watch sitcoms? I was wondering.

“No, I’m going to do hobbies. I’m going to see movies. I’m talking about work. I’m not going to work on something that I don’t think improves civilization. I think The Washington Post does this, I think Amazon is doing this, and I think Blue Origin is doing it. And I’m not going to put productive energy into anything that doesn’t improve civilization. Why would I have? What would I try to do? “

This conversation helps frame the decision he made this week extricate oneself prosaic CEO responsibilities – which in 2021 will likely include depositions, testimony in Congress, and pressure to prove Amazon is not an anti-competitive predator. Instead, he will take on the more blurred role of executive chairman. Even in 2018, he had delegated the day-to-day operations of Amazon to two junior CEOs, one from the company’s retail and one from its web services division. (The Retail Czar, Jeff Wilke, retired, while the director of Amazon Web Services, Andy Jassy, will be Bezos’ successor.) It wasn’t until the company tackled the Covid crisis last year that Bezos returned to a more practical role, as one of its reusable Blue Origin rockets returning to the ramp launch. But clearly, he wasn’t tempted to stay there.

These transitions are inevitable. I spent time with the founders of all the Big Tech companies. In their hearts, they all seem to believe that they are still idealists. They reject accusations that they are noise-destroying societal monsters. Only hard data convinces them that their businesses are destructive, and when that happens, it fixes the course rather than tearing things up and starting from scratch. But there is no escaping one fact: the giant state-owned companies they have built are no longer dream factories but cutting-edge companies, optimized for profit and serving shareholders who grow to even higher yields. While it is sometimes good for these founders to crush their competition, the real excitement always comes from building things, once again tapping into the exhilaration that came when their original ideas took flight. But it becomes more difficult to do this when you are in charge of one of the pillars of the economy.


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