Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on September 19, 2019 in Washington.
Paul Morigi | Getty Images | Amazon
Jeff Bezos led his latest shareholders meeting as Amazon CEO on Wednesday, highlighting the company’s successes in the previous year, while acknowledging that it has many challenges ahead.
Bezos announced that he will formally resign as CEO on July 5, the date Amazon joined 27 years ago. He will take over as CEO and hand over the reins to cloud computing chief Andy Jassy, whom Bezos assured investors are well equipped for the task.
“You have the highest standards and I guarantee you that Andy will never allow the universe to make us typical,” Bezos said during the meeting, which was held for practically the second year in a row, due to the coronavirus pandemic. “He has the energy to keep alive in us what has made us special.”
Bezos was asked if Amazon would have trouble innovating now that it has grown so much and diversified. He acknowledged that Amazon, under its new leader Jassy, will have to manage newer bets that have no guarantee of success, including its telehealth service Amazon Care and the Project Kuiper satellite internet network.
“Let me assure you that I can guarantee you that none of these ideas are guaranteed to work,” Bezos said. “They are all gigantic investments and they are all risks… The only way to obtain above-average returns is to take risks and many will not pay off. Our entire history as a company is about taking risks, many of which have failed and many of which will fail, but we will continue to take big risks. “
Shareholders rejected all 11 proposals submitted by outsiders, which spanned a variety of topics, from worker safety and Amazon’s hiring practices to the use of facial recognition technology and climate change.
Vote totals were not immediately available at the meeting, but Amazon generally publishes detailed results in a regulatory filing.
During a Q&A at the end of the meeting, Bezos was asked to address criticism that Amazon had become too big and too powerful. Bezos rejected that claim, arguing that Amazon faces intense competition in every industry in which it operates, including its core retail business, where the market is “thriving.”
“Consumers can shop at dozens of large national retailers, hundreds of regional retailers, hundreds of thousands of small retailers both online and in store,” Bezos said. “It is a very healthy industry and it is far from a win-win situation and we are still a small fraction of retail.”
The IT industry, another market in which Amazon competes through its cloud computing services, also continues to have healthy competition, argued Bezos. “We face competition from well-established companies like Google, Oracle and Microsoft, and from incredibly successful startups that do great work and grow incredibly fast, like Snowflake and Twilio,” he said.
Just a day earlier, Amazon was sued by the Washington, DC attorney general for allegedly engaging in anti-competitive practices that have unfairly raised prices for consumers and suppressed innovation. The company also faces ongoing investigations by multiple federal agencies, state attorneys general and Europe’s antitrust watchdog.
When regulators have taken advantage of an alleged lack of competition in the retail industry, Bezos suggested that consumers have far fewer options in other markets.
“Think about mobile phone operating systems,” Bezos said. “Can you think of a small, fast-growing, successful mobile phone operating system? Where are they? Name one. They do not exist”.
Bezos was also asked to comment on Amazon’s $ 8.45 billion deal for MGM Studios, which was announced hours before the shareholders’ meeting began on Wednesday.
For Amazon, the acquisition of the historic Hollywood studio behind the James Bond films will give the company greater tools to keep its more than 200 million Prime members satisfied, while attracting new subscribers to the loyalty program (who typically spend more). in the place).
It also enhances Amazon’s ability to produce original movies and TV shows. Amazon’s television and film division, Amazon Studios, has produced a few hits, including “Manchester By the Sea” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” but it has to keep up with well-established players like Netflix and Disney.
Besides “James Bond”, MGM also has other library favorites like “Thelma and Louise”, “Raging Bull”, “Robocop” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” that made “the acquisition thesis here really very simple”, Bezos said.
“MGM has a vast and deep catalog of much-loved intellectual property,” Bezos said. “And with the talented folks at MGM and Amazon studios, we can reimagine and develop that intellectual property for the 21st century.
It’s going to be a lot of fun work and people who love stories will be the big beneficiaries. “
Amazon’s annual shareholder meetings have become a popular place for employees, investors, and activist groups to talk about a variety of hot topics.
This year was no different, with a series of shareholder resolutions proposing that the company take action on issues including climate change, working conditions, the use of facial recognition technology, and racial and gender disparities in the workforce. .
Two site workers from a failed unionization vote at one of Amazon’s Alabama warehouses submitted shareholder proposals, which were rejected. Darryl Richardson backed a proposed audit of the company’s impact on racial equity, while Jennifer Bates spoke out in favor of a proposal to elect a warehouse worker to Amazon’s board of directors.
Bates argued that part-time workers could add valuable perspective to Amazon’s board, while also advocating on issues that are critical to its workforce.
“I know from my own experience, working at Amazon, that they don’t listen to us workers,” Bates said during the meeting. “On many occasions I have tried to raise concerns about safety, scheduling and discipline in the workplace. But the managers are not available, they don’t listen to me, or they just fire me. I am not alone”.
The issue of working conditions also came up at Amazon’s shareholders meeting last year. It’s an issue that has taken on increased focus both inside and outside the company, as Amazon’s front-line warehouse and delivery workers raised safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.
Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer compliance, defended the company’s treatment of its workers.
“While it may be easy for critics to paint broadly the picture of a heartless employer and negative working conditions, the reality is very different,” said Boler Davis, adding that Amazon is committed “to doing the right thing for its employees. “.