• Wed. Dec 14th, 2022

Jeff Bezos leaves an enduring legacy after transforming Amazon from a modest online bookseller into one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

Jul 4, 2021
  • Jeff Bezos announced in February that he will be stepping
    down as Amazon CEO on 5 July.
  • He transformed Amazon from a modest online bookseller to a
    global e-commerce giant and is hailed as one of the best business
    architects of his time.
  • But Amazon has been vilified over business practices that
    have crushed competitors and treating its employees like machines.

As he prepares to blast off into a new career stage, Jeff
Bezos leaves an enduring legacy after transforming Amazon from a modest online
bookseller into one of the world’s most powerful corporations.
Bezos, 57, is set to hand over the job of Amazon chief
executive on 5 July to Andy Jassy and turn his attention to his private space
exploration firm, philanthropy and other endeavors. He will retain a key role,
however, as executive chair at the technology and e-commerce colossus he
founded 27 years ago.
The transition comes after a spectacular streak for Amazon,
which has drawn attention for its innovations.
But the firm has also been vilified over business practices
that have crushed competitors and raised concerns over treatment of a workforce
of more than one million.
“Bezos has been a transformational leader… in book
selling, the retail market, cloud computing and home delivery,” said
Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for
Technology Innovation.
“He was a pioneer who introduced many of the conveniences that people take for granted, such as going to an online store, ordering something, and having it delivered to your home the next day. The whole e-commerce sector owes many of its innovations to this individual.”
In public appearances, Bezos often recounts the early days
at Amazon, started in his garage, when he packed up orders himself and drove
boxes to the post office.
Today, Amazon has a market value of more than $1.7 trillion.
It posted 2020 annual revenues of $386 billion from operations in e-commerce,
cloud computing, groceries, artificial intelligence, streaming media and more.
‘An instinct’
Bezos “had an instinct for the right thing” in
finding the next market, said Roger Kay, analyst at Endpoint Technologies
Kay said Bezos deftly transitioned from books to other
merchandise to an online marketplace, and successfully built the cloud
infrastructure for the company which became the highly profitable Amazon Web
Amazon outlasted its rivals by forgoing profits in its early
years “and reinvesting everything into expanding,” Kay said.
“If you look at the trajectory now, it was all
logical,” Kay added. “You can say Bezos has been one of the best business
architects of his time.”
Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research said Bezos
“wasn’t the first or the only one, but he took the concept (of e-commerce)
and worked to perfect it.”
Amazon was able to outdo rivals because Bezos
“recognized the need to build infrastructure,” including the vast
network of warehouses, trucks, planes and other logistics for the business,
O’Donnell said.
“A lot of other companies didn’t want to spend money on
the messy behind-the-scenes work.”
The stunning rise of Amazon has made Bezos into one of the
world’s richest people, with a net worth close to $200 billion, even after a
divorce settlement which gave part of his stake to his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott.
Bezos will step away from day-to-day Amazon management to
spend more time on projects including his space firm Blue Origin — which is
set to take him into space later this month.
He owns the Washington Post newspaper and has devoted time
and funds to efforts to fight climate change, while also facing criticism after
recent reports that he paid no income tax at all some years.
Whither Amazon?
His departure leaves questions about the future of Amazon as
it faces a torrent of regulatory scrutiny and criticism from activists.
US lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it
easier to break up Amazon, amid concerns that a handful of Big Tech firms have
become too dominant, hurting competition in a way that eventually harms
Amazon was well-positioned during the coronavirus pandemic
with its fast delivery of goods and groceries and boosted its US workforce to
more than 800,000.
While the company has boasted of its $15 minimum wage and
other benefits, critics say its relentless focus on efficiency and worker
surveillance has treated employees like machines.
The Teamsters union recently launched a campaign to organize Amazon employees, claiming its workers “face dehumanizing, unsafe and low-pay jobs, with high turnover and no voice at work.”
Bezos appeared to respond to worker concerns earlier this
year when he called for a “better vision” for employees after a
bruising battle over a unionization vote in Alabama, which ultimately failed.
He laid out a new goal for the company to be “Earth’s
best employer and Earth’s safest place to work,” in his final letter as
chief executive.
Yet Amazon is likely to face challenges ahead that will make
it difficult to keep its trajectory.
“The backlash against this sector probably will result
in stronger government oversight of technology companies,” said West.
Kay said Amazon might become “a victim of its own
success” and be forced to break up into two or more firms.
Still, he said that “each of those entities would
thrive in its own market; I can easily imagine the sum of the parts being
greater than the whole, so it might not hurt shareholders.”