Meet the new boss

"Alexa, what exactly is an 'executive chairman?'" Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Quote of the day

“Being a part of WallStreetBets, it’s like a religion you’re devoted to. There’s this enormous power … this energy: ‘Hold the line. We aren’t giving in. We aren’t giving up. We are in for that ride to that moon.’ That is the power that keeps everyone holding their shares.”

Evan Oosterink, 19, who lost $10,000 of his total $10,036.14 in savings on GameStop this week.

Update (3/15/21): Ooosterink contacted me today to say he continued to hold. A month and a half later, GME is back up over $275. So even if he did lose temporarily back in February, it would appear he’s made it back.

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Executive chairman

Well, he had a good run.

Twenty-seven years after he quit his job at D.B. Shaw and drove across the country with his then-girlfriend (now ex-wife) MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos announced yesterday that he’s stepping down as the CEO of Amazon.

He’s not exactly riding off into the sunset. Bezos will become executive chairman while Andy Jassy, who joined Amazon in 1997 and who leads Amazon Web Services, which is by far the most profitable part of the company, will become CEO.

The transition will take place sometime in the third quarter of this year, and it means that Bezos’s role will now be —

Well, frankly, that’s a bit of a question. Not for nothing, but searches on Google for “executive chairman” spiked big-time a little after 4 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, which was right after the announcement was made. Because it’s not the normal transition.

(I wish I knew how to look up Amazon Echo search trends, but we’ll assume it spiked on Amazon’s platform, too.)

“In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives,” Bezos wrote in a letter to Amazon employees Tuesday. “Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”

Now, this kind of reminds me of when I was 16 years old and getting my driver’s license. (Bear with me on the analogy.)

I was super-excited to think that I’d have this newfound freedom to travel anywhere I wanted—only to realize that in reality, it meant driving my parents’ station wagon, usually with either my mom or my dad in the car with me for the first little while.

Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that’s part of what it might be like for Jassy taking over? I can’t really imagine Bezos would be an absentee landlord.

There aren’t many CEOs whose companies are such a direct legacy of their vision as Bezos and Amazon. In fact, while there are a few CEOs who have been in charge longer than Bezos — Warren Buffett has been CEO of Berkshire Hathaway for more than 50 years — he’s certainly among the longest-tenured.

Of course this ends speculation about Amazon’s succession planning. The company hadn’t really discussed who was the true heir to Bezos very much. Most prognosticators had focused on either Jessy or else Jeff Wilke, who is CEO of Amazon’s consumer businesses. But Wilke announced he’s retiring later this year.

Anyway, here’s the real meat of Bezos’s announcement:

As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods.

Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.

I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.

It’s funny; it was only yesterday that I was opining that Mark Zuckerberg ought to think about stepping aside as CEO and becoming chairman of Facebook.

Not 24 hours later, Bezos announced he’s doing exactly that.

7 other things worth your time

  • The second impeachment trial of former President Trump is about to begin, and it already feels like an afterthought. But it really is the trial of the young century, even if the outcome is all-but-assured: the man who was president just a month ago, accused of inciting insurrection? It starts next week; both the House prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers filed pretrial briefs yesterday. (ABC11)

  • President Biden and the Senate are pushing ahead with a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, although there are a few sticking points in trying to hold their razor-thin majority: income caps on who might get direct payments, haggling over raising the minimum wage, and the amounts of state and local aid and unemployment insurance. (Business Insider)

  • A Russian judge sentenced Aleksey Navalny to about 2.5 years in prison for violating parole by missing appointments while he was being treated in Germany for nerve agent poisoning — which he says was the result of an assassination attempt sanctioned by Putin. The State Department says it’s “gravely concerned;” Navalny’s arrest sparked mass protests and arrests in Russia.

  • Wikipedia introduced a new code of conduct, “developed for the new internet era,” prohibiting people from deliberately introducing false or inaccurate content or intimidating other people. Wait, this wasn’t already part of their policy? (AFP)

  • The Super Bowl is next Sunday. Expect the ads to focus on humor and charity, rather than any big product announcements or the like. Also, huge problem: apparently there is a chicken wing shortage right in time for the big game. (Digiday, $, WashPost)

  • Dolly Parton was twice offered the Medal of Freedom by President Trump, but she turned it both times because the pandemic and her husband’s illness made travel difficult. She’s heard from President Biden’s team about it now, but said she’s hesitating to accept it because doing so might be seen as a political act after not getting it from Trump. (Today)

  • One last GameStop post: A 20-year-old college student who says he made $30,000 when the stock spiked is being praised for sharing the wealth a bit, by donating a few dozen Nintendo Switch consoles and video games, worth about $2,000, to Children's Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis. (ABC7 Chicago)

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