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Why Amazon CEO Andy Jassy didn’t immediately say ‘yes’ when Jeff Bezos offered him the role

Running one of the world’s biggest companies — and earning millions per year while doing so — sounds like a no-brainer for most people.

But when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos asked Andy Jassy to take over as CEO last year, Jassy didn’t immediately say “yes.”

On Wednesday, Jassy explained why he needed time to think before accepting the job, despite having decades of experience at the company — plenty of time to study the nature of the role. Before becoming Amazon’s CEO, Jassy ran the company’s Amazon Web Services division, and had no plans to change his career path.

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“I’ve been at Amazon for 25 years,” Jassy, 54, said at The New York Times’ 2022 DealBook Summit. “I wasn’t really looking to do something different. And I also really didn’t think that Jeff was ever going to do something different in the time that I worked there.”

So, instead of immediately taking the lauded position, Jassy asked Bezos if he could go home and talk about it with his wife. That night, Jassy and his wife decided together that he should accept the offer.

Amazon announced the planned change in February 2021, just after the company reported its first over $100 billion quarter. Jassy officially started as CEO five months later, in July.

When Bezos, who is still the company chairman, announced he was stepping back from Amazon, many people both inside and outside the company were surprised — including Jassy.

But Jassy was well-positioned to take over, years after initially joining Amazon as a marketing manager in 1997. He and Bezos worked closely together to launch Amazon Web Services in 2006, which Jassy went on to lead for the next 15 years.

Since Jassy took Amazon’s helm last year, the company’s stock has fluctuated between record highs and steep declines. The company also began closing some warehouses and laying off tens of thousands of employees.

But those swings might be out of Jassy’s control. In 2020, Covid-19 lockdowns fueled online shopping, a boon for the e-commerce giant. Now, recessionary fears are prompting tech companies across the country to batten down the hatches.

Amazon’s layoffs are expected to reach roughly 10,000 jobs before they’re over. Jassy said the cost-cutting measures were necessary, as the company realized the economy was “more uncertain” than they originally thought.

“We were seeing things that were different from what we’ve seen before, and we just felt like we needed to streamline our costs,” Jassy said. “As we went through the plans, we realized we needed to be more slim on some of our resources.”

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