Amazon this afternoon reported Q4 revenue and profit that came in well above consensus, but also said founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will yield his CEO role, giving the top spot to Amazon Web Services leader Andy Jassy.
"Amazon is also announcing today that Jeff Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chair in the third quarter of 2021 and Andy Jassy will become Chief Executive Officer at that time," said the company.
The news sent Amazon shares down initially in late trading before they recovered.
Bezos said in prepared remarks, "Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime's insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more.
"If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal," Bezos continued. "People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you're actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition."
Jassy, a Harvard Business School graduate, joined Amazon in 1997. As CEO of Amazon Web Services since 2006, Jassy has been synonymous with the rise and rise of AWS as the biggest cloud computing vendor in the world.
Revenue in the three months ended in December rose to $125.6 billion, yielding EPS of $14.09.
Analysts had been modeling $119.72 billion in revenue and $7.20 per share in earnings.
For the current quarter, Amazon forecast revenue in a range of $100 billion to $106 billion, which is, again, well ahead of expectations. The Street has been modeling $95.78 billion for the March quarter.
Amazon will host a conference call with analysts to discuss the report at 5:30 pm eastern time, and you can catch the Webcast of it on the company's investor relations Web page.
Aside from Bezos leaving, the most interesting items for Wall Street are what's not in the report, and will probably come up during the earnings call this evening. They include details about how the logistics operations at Amazon did during the holiday quarter; how Amazon's relatively young advertising business is progressing; and the also relatively young pharmacy business.
Update: During the call, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky spoke at length about the significance of Jassy becoming CEO and Bezos becoming executive chairman. He said Bezos's role will remain "super important" at the company as he focuses on things such strategic decisions, acquisitions, and various "one-way door" types of issues for the company.