Jeff Bezos' Final Shareholder Letter
A few months ago, Jeff Bezos shocked us all by announcing that he was set to step down as CEO of Amazon this year. Aside from proving that 2021 was going to be every bit as mental as 2020 had been, it was a momentous occasion considering the $1.6 trillion empire that he has built over the course of the last two and a bit decades.
Today, Bezos published his final shareholder letter as CEO of Amazon. In this farewell address, Bezos lays out a broad vision for the future of the company with new CEO Andy Jassy at the helm, including the key to success in business (“create more than you consume”) and the importance of “distinctiveness” in making something truly special.
He also appends the very first shareholder letter he wrote back in 1997 to the end, a true testament to the runaway freight train this company has become (only $150 million in annual revenue!!!).
And, of course, let’s not forget the transformation Bezos himself underwent over the past few years either:
It’s almost as if being filthy rich also makes you good-looking? Strange, that.
Most interestingly, however, is the fact that Bezos has gone to great pains in the letter to make clear just how well Amazon employees are treated. This undoubtedly comes off the back of recent headlines about the alleged mistreatment of workers in Amazon warehouses and, specifically, last week’s vote for unionization at a location in Bessemer, Alabama. Although the union vote was defeated by a significant margin of more than two-to-one, the optics have not been good around the treatment of Amazon workers for some time.
Indeed, my colleague Anne Marie wrote a great piece about this last week that you can check out here.
I’m sure a few eyebrows will be raised at Bezos’ claims of having created $91 billion in “value” for employees last year — a concept also known as “paying them wages”. I know a few more eyebrows (if there are any left on your forehead, that is) will be raised at his commitment towards making Amazon “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work”. The cynic in me desperately wants to run to Twitter and point out that it’s all well and good making this commitment right before he steps out of the office for good.
If anything though, I think the fact that Bezos has used this letter — his parting gift to be recorded for posterity — to address these massive issues proves that this is something the company is finally prepared to step up and do something about it. Only time will tell, but one would hope that in his new role as Executive Chair, Amazon will become a better place to work.
There’s no value in me paraphrasing his words anymore. Love him or loathe him, you cannot deny that Bezos has been the 21st century Rockefeller, and his final farewell as CEO is full of insights that will benefit every investor and entrepreneur alike.