Power Players

What Jeff Bezos told Amazon employees about stepping down as CEO: 'I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring'

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attends the Amazon Prime Video's Golden Globe Awards After Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 6, 2019.
Emma McIntyre | Getty Images

Although Jeff Bezos announced on Tuesday that he will step down as Amazon CEO and transition to executive chair of the company's board, he has no plans of retiring.

"Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it's consuming," Bezos wrote in a letter to employees announcing his role change. "When you have a responsibility like that, it's hard to put attention on anything else."

As executive chair, Bezos said he plans to "stay engaged in Amazon initiatives," but also put energy into his "other passions," like "the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post," to name a few.

"As much as I still tap dance into the office, I'm excited about this transition," he said.

Today, Amazon is an e-commerce behemoth with a market value of about $1.7 trillion. But when Jeff Bezos started the online bookseller in 1994, he thought it was likely that his business would fail.

At the time, "most people didn't pay attention to us or care about us," Bezos said at a 2018 Partnership for Public Service gala.

And, before Amazon's launch, most people did not even know what the internet was, he said.

"The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, 'What's the internet?'" Bezos wrote in his letter to employees.

When Bezos was deciding whether to take a huge risk, quit his stable job at a hedge fund and start Amazon out of his garage, his then-employer and family members worried about his future – but, "I pictured myself 80 years old, thinking back on my life in a quiet moment of reflection," he during a fireside chat in India in 2020. "I wanted not to have regrets. I knew for a fact, I have this idea, and if I don't try, I'm going to regret having never tried."

Of course, his decision paid off – and nowadays, Bezos said, the reaction from people is different.

"Blessedly, I haven't had to explain [the internet] in a long while," he said in his letter.

"If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal," he said. "People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive."

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