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Amazon After Bezos

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Jeff Bezos founded Amazon 27 years ago. He steps down as C.E.O. two days from now. His successor, Andy Jassy, will take over the e-commerce giant on July 5.

It’s obvious to say that America’s economy and society — how we shop, how we communicate, what we watch and the technology we use to do all that — is vastly different than it was in 1994 when Bezos started Amazon. Few other business leaders — Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Steve Jobs — have played as prominent a role in reshaping the economy as Bezos. That sort of influence comes with costs, and raises many important questions.

Back in 2017, on the 20-year anniversary of Amazon going public, Andrew wrote about how Bezos has “an authentic, legitimate claim on having changed the way we live.” He continued:

As an author, I’m supposed to hate Mr. Bezos. After all, he has pressured publishers, cut their margins and practically put old-school bookstores out of business. As if to rub it in, he’s now introducing bricks-and-mortar Amazon bookstores.

But to take that view would be to misunderstand what innovation looks like. It upends industries — witness the current carnage in the retail industry, which has been outmoded by Amazon and all the companies trying to copy it.

“Amazon is not happening to book selling,” Mr. Bezos explained, defending his role in a 2013 interview with Charlie Rose. “The future is happening to book selling.”

After Bezos, what’s the future for Amazon? The founder’s grand vision, for Amazon to become “the everything store,” has been achieved. Now, it’s not just that Bezos is stepping back: The Times’s Karen Weise reports that over the past 18 months there has been unusually high turnover in Amazon’s executive ranks. And all that change is coming as the powers that want to rein in Amazon appear to be growing more powerful:

Taking risks is harder for new leaders. One of the oft-cited reasons for Bezos’s success was his willingness to experiment — and fail. He was able to see 10 steps ahead of where Amazon was at in a given moment. His successor is taking over a time when those steps are getting harder to take.

The push to overhaul the global tax system gains momentum. More than 130 countries — including China, India and Russia — signed onto a plan that included measures like a 15 percent minimum corporate tax rate. Now comes the hard part of working out the details, and getting tax havens like Ireland and Caribbean nations on board.


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