Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced on Tuesday that he will be stepping down as CEO during the third quarter of this year. He will instead serve as the executive chair of the company’s board, focusing on “new products and early initiatives.” Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, is set to replace Bezos.
Since founding the company in 1994, Bezos has grown Amazon into a hulking behemoth worth $1.7 trillion that encompasses a ubiquitous delivery service, Whole Foods Market, Prime Video, Audible, and Twitch. While Bezos says he’ll still be involved in the company to some extent, he plans to direct his attention to his other pursuits outside the company.
“As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions,” Bezos wrote in a letter to Amazon employees. “I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.”
Here’s a look at the other projects that Bezos says he will focus on after stepping down.
Day 1 Fund
Bezos launched this $2 billion philanthropic fund in 2018 with the aim of supporting nonprofits combating homelessness and establishing a network of preschools in underprivileged communities. The organization has given tens of millions of dollars to dozens of nonprofit groups—though, as Vox noted, Amazon has been instrumental in killing bills dedicated to alleviating homelessness.
Bezos Earth Fund
The $10 billion environmental fund, founded in February 2020, is dedicated to backing “scientists, activists, NGOs, and others.” In November, Bezos announced that the fund would be donating $791 million to 16 groups, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Nature Conservancy. Bezos has a small team, including partner Lauren Sánchez and staff from his personal office, working to decide how to distribute the funds.
Bezos founded the private aerospace company in 2000 and has poured billions of dollars into it. In a 2018 interview with Business Insider, he claimed that Blue Origin is “the most important work that I’m doing” and that he was liquidating $1 billion per year of Amazon stock to invest in the company. “The solar system can easily support a trillion humans. And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power unlimited for all practical purposes,” he said at the time. Blue Origin is aiming to fly its first passengers into space as early as April.
The Washington Post
Bezos purchased the storied newspaper from Slate’s parent company in 2013 for $250 million. Since then, Bezos has helped to multiply its web traffic, and the paper has hired hundreds of people, won awards for reporting on the Trump administration, and turned a profit. At the same time, though, there have been questions about conflicts of interest when the Washington Post inevitably has to cover the CEO, though both Bezos and editor Marty Baron have said that there is a strict separation between the editorial team and the paper’s owner.
The 10,000 Year Clock
Bezos didn’t specifically mention the clock in his farewell letter, but the device will surely take up much of his attention in the coming years. Installation of the $42 million clock in multiple rooms carved out of a West Texas mountain began in 2018. The clock will tick once a year and chime once in a thousand. “It’s a special Clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking,” Bezos wrote of the device, which will be 500 feet tall and derive its energy from Earth’s thermal cycles.