On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon, the company he started in his garage 27 years ago.
In his place, the CEO of Amazon Web Services Andy Jassy will take the top job at the company.
It’s shocking when a superstar CEO leaves his post. Especially when the brand he formed is so inextricably linked to his name.
And that’s exactly why this was the best possible move Amazon could make at this point.
A Proven History of Making the Impossible Possible
I remember back in 2015 when Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) stock looked expensive. Trillion-dollar companies didn’t exist yet. Over the last six years, it has soared over 1,000%.
No one in their right mind believes the stock could do it again, right?
I’m not so sure.
When Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft at the height of the tech bubble in 2000, to many, it was a sign that the gravy train had run its course. And it did for a while. Microsoft didn’t reach new highs for another decade and a half. But if you look at a 40-year chart of the company’s stock, the tech boom is barely a blip.
It was just as controversial when Gates stepped down from the company’s day-to-day operations in 2008. It didn’t stop the stock from rising 10 times in price.
Of course, Microsoft’s stock had the strength of an 11-year bull market at its back.
But Amazon is a much newer company, and it’s growing much faster than Microsoft.
Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing juggernaut at the heart of Amazon’s business, has grown its profits in every quarter since 2014 and shows zero signs of slowing down.
Amazon isn’t just an e-commerce store with the most sophisticated logistics operation in the world. It’s a tech titan, pharmaceutical company, delivery service provider, grocery store and Netflix rival.
Bezos can Follow the Gates Playbook
But if Amazon is to keep growing, so must the personal brand of its founder.
Bezos has done a fantastic job growing his company. So much so, it has come at the expense of his own name.
People dislike him because he’s a “job killer.” Or they cite unfit conditions in his warehouses. Or perhaps people just don’t believe he should be worth that much money.
The best way for Bezos to grow his own personal brand, and that of his flagship company, is to grow bigger than Amazon itself.
Bill Gates (and, to a lesser extent, Steve Jobs) wrote the playbook. Their companies went on to do just fine without them (or with them operating in a reduced capacity, in Gates’ case). Gates became one of the world’s greatest philanthropists. And Jobs became a bigger name even after his untimely passing, the subject of two Hollywood movies.
As Chairman instead of CEO of Amazon, Bezos can finally put his wealth and influence to work, making the world a better place. He will be able to focus more on his space company Blue Origin, helping us go where no man has gone before. He can devote more attention to the Washington Post and quality journalism. And as a lobbyist, he can continue to promote our society’s transition to clean, 100% renewable energy as he has already started with the Bezos Earth Fund.
Think about how much more popular George W. Bush is after three terms out of office than he was when he left. It happens with presidents; it happens with CEOs. When a bulldog CEO steps down and uses his wealth and influence to promote good policy, it not only increases his personal branding power, but it’s also the best way to continue building his company’s legacy.
In my view, this may be the last time you can buy Amazon stock today before it soars another 1,000%. It could take a decade or more, just like Apple and Microsoft took, but don’t be surprised if it happens.