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Photo: Mandel Ngan/Contributor via Getty Images

Amazon announced on Tuesday that founder Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO in the third quarter of this year and transition to executive chair of the company's board.

The big picture: Bezos will be replaced by Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy, who heads the booming cloud business division.

Why it matters, via Axios' Sara Fischer: Jassy's promotion shows how important Amazon's booming cloud business has become.

What he's saying: "Amazon is what it is because of invention. We do crazy things together and then make them normal," Bezos said in a statement. "If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal.

  • "People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. ... Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition."

By the numbers: Amazon also announced net sales increasing to $125.6 billion in the fourth quarter, compared to $84.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, and net sales in 2020 increased to $386.1 billion compared to $280.5 billion in 2019.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Felix Salmon: The role of executive chairman is designed to give the holder power without accountability. Don’t expect Bezos to step back from Amazon when it comes to anything strategically important.

Between the lines: Bezos has spent an increasing share of his time and money on non-Amazon pursuits in recent years, including philanthropy, his private space firm Blue Origin and the Washington Post, which he bought in 2013, Axios' Kyle Daly writes.

  • In an email to employees, he said that as executive chair, he 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."

Yes, but: Amazon is mired in regulatory battles around the world, with governments increasingly skeptical about its size and power, and a Democratic-controlled Congress is eager to act.

  • Earlier Tuesday, Amazon was fined $62 million for allegedly stiffing delivery drivers.

Go deeper

Feb 2, 2021 - Technology

Amazon to pay $62M to settle claims it lifted delivery driver tips

Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Amazon will pay more than $61.7 million to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission that it did not pay drivers in the Amazon Flex delivery service their full share of tips over a two and a half year period.

The big picture: Amazon faces a rising chorus of accusations that it underpays and overworks its warehouse workers and delivery drivers.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Feb 2, 2021 - Science

Billionaire battles are shaping our future in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon and SpaceX's scuffle about satellites shows how competitions between companies today are shaping humanity's future in space.

Why it matters: Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are influencing the push for humans to settle the solar system — from a city on Mars to large space stations in orbit.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.