For many, the decision seems like odd timing: that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would choose to step down as CEO right at the height of his company’s success.
Thanks to lockdown, Amazon’s net income has doubled to $7.2 billion since the start of the pandemic – no mean feat during an economic disaster. Bezos himself is now worth $196 billion, but recently lost his status as the richest man in the world to rival-in-chief and Tesla founder, Elon Musk. Is he now set on beating Musk at their secondary competition, space travel?
Whatever the reason, Bezos’ move to becoming Amazon’s executive chairman will presumably free up time and energy for other passion projects. Will he devote more energy to charitable giving? Or take more time for the family? Or perhaps he wants to spend more time with his new girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez?
From his plans to go into orbit to his surprising hobbies, here’s what’s next for Mr Amazon.
What will Bezos’s new role look like?
As executive chairman of Amazon, Bezos has been keen to comment on his continuing active role within the online-megastore he founded from his Seattle garage in 1994.
Bezos reportedly emailed his staff, addressing them as “Fellow Amazonians”, to explain his shifting of focus. While remaining resolute on his love for Amazon and his gratitude for his staff, Bezos explains that his role as CEO is “consuming”. As executive chairman, he “will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives”.
What else will he get up to?
Having addressed his continued role within Amazon, Bezos looked to his next adventures. In his email to staff, he explained that he would be continuing to work on projects such as the “Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions” and his social media bios read “Amazon, Blue Origin, The Washington Post”.
Blue Origin refers to the billionaire’s own rocket manufacturer, which he founded in 2000. Like his space race rival Musk, owner of SpaceX, he dreams of enabling millions of humans to live in space on “affordable shuttles” with a ticket price of $200,000 per passenger — less than half of Musk’s estimated $500,000 ticket cost.
Could this be the new focus of Bezos’ attentions? The sci-fi-loving Amazon chief has historically said he keeps every Wednesday free for Blue Origin’s development and invests a minimum of $1 billion worth of annual proceeds from sales of Amazon shares every year. Maybe soon, he’ll be keeping rather more Wednesdays free to focus on his mission to go into orbit.
Blue Origin aims to explore space for various reasons. One is for its resources and energy. Another is to make space travel cheaper and accessible. With these ambitious goals and his rivalry with Musk, Bezos will want time to focus on the planets he is yet to conquer.
The billionaire will also stay on as owner of The Washington Post, which he bought in 2013 for $250 million and helped boost digitally. In 2016, the publication was given a platform on Amazon devices such as the Kindle and critics have suggested he might use this year’s move to fuse his business interests further.
There are also suggestions he might use this year’s step-change to devote more time to philanthropy – the Day 1 Fund her refers to in his email is the charitable fund he lauched with his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott in 2018. Over the years, Bezos has donated millions to support gay marriage, immigrant rights and fighting homelessness, but critics say his charitable giving has fallen short of most tech moguls.
Last year’s $690,000 donation to the Australian bushfire appeal was called “stingy” and unlike Scott, who was left with a quarter of his Amazon shares, he has drawn criticism for not signing Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge initiative. Will he follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates, who switched from Microsoft CEO to chairman in 2000, the year he formed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?
How will he spend his free time?
According to his email, Bezos will be throwing himself into “other passions” – so what will they be? The Amazon chief is known for his adventurous streak – he once spent three weeks on an underwater rocket hunt and likes to check out his space machines himself – but he also has more earthly passions.
Among his more everyday qualities are a passion for waffles (see: Instagram) and an obsession with always getting eight hours of sleep every night (he insists he doesn’t set an alarm and relies on waking naturally).
What about family? Bezos is close with his parents – his step-father, Cuban immigrant Mike Bezos, adopted him when he was four – and he has a new girlfriend, news anchor turned helicopter pilot Lauren Sanchez.
The pair have been in a relationship since 2019 and since been pictured holidaying in the Balearic Islands, India and aboard media mogul David Geffen’s superyacht, the Rising Sun, but it’s also been a busy two years for his business with the Covid pandemic.
Bezos’ move might allow him to spend more quality couple time with Sanchez having only recently purchased a $165 million Hollywood compound, California’s most expensive ever home sale, for them to live in.
Shortly before he met his first wife, MacKenzie Scott, he reportedly took up ballroom dancing lessons to increase his “woman flow”. Perhaps this next move is part of a plan to impress a second potential wife.