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Jeff Bezos Has Been Predicting Amazon’s ‘Inevitable Death’ For Years And Says Lifespans Of Large Companies ‘Tend To Be 30-Plus Years’ Not 100

In Business
April 25, 2024
Jeff Bezos Has Been Predicting Amazon's 'Inevitable Death' For Years And Says Lifespans Of Large Companies 'Tend To Be 30-Plus Years' Not 100

Jeff Bezos Has Been Predicting Amazon’s ‘Inevitable Death’ For Years And Says Lifespans Of Large Companies ‘Tend To Be 30-Plus Years’ Not 100

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) Founder Jeff Bezos has always been unusually frank about the potential decline and eventual demise of his company. This sentiment has been a recurring theme in his communications, expressing a clear understanding that even the mightiest companies have limited lifespans.

Bezos has often used this perspective as a rallying cry to drive innovation at Amazon, pushing the company to stay ahead of potential decline through continuous evolution and reinvention.

Under Bezos’s leadership, Amazon has grown into a colossal tech and retail giant, yet he has consistently reminded stakeholders of the company’s mortality. Between 2013 and 2018, he openly discussed Amazon’s “inevitable” death on multiple occasions, even predicting during a 2018 all-hands meeting that “Amazon will go bankrupt” one day.

“If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not 100-plus years,” he said, emphasizing that many large companies do not last beyond several decades.

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This outlook was also evident in his final letter to shareholders in 2021, when Bezos quoted biologist Richard Dawkins, saying, “Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at.”

Here, Bezos likened the effort required to maintain the vitality of a living organism to the efforts required to keep a company thriving. He warned against the company becoming too typical and losing its distinctiveness, equating corporate stagnation with death.

Bezos often reinforced this point with his Day One philosophy, asserting that for Amazon, it must always be Day One. This mindset focuses on maintaining the agility, curiosity and urgency of a startup. He articulated that moving to Day Two implies stasis, irrelevance and slow decline, which he saw as the beginning of the end.

These acknowledgments of Amazon’s possible future serve not just as warnings but as motivation. Bezos has aimed to cultivate an organizational culture that pursues innovation and operational excellence to stave off the decline that he views as inevitable without such effort. His leadership philosophy suggests that recognizing and confronting the prospect of failure can galvanize a company to maintain its competitive edge and vitality.

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Bezos stepped down as CEO but moved into the role of executive chairman to continue influencing Amazon’s path, albeit in a different capacity.

Earlier this year, Bezos sold 50 million Amazon shares, netting approximately $8.5 billion. The financial move was part of a broader strategy that included his relocation from Seattle to Miami,  a decision influenced by personal and business considerations. His move to Florida was particularly advantageous because of the state’s favorable tax laws, allowing him to save about $600 million in taxes he would have incurred under Washington’s capital gains tax, introduced in 2021.

He has made significant real estate investments in Florida, spending hundreds of millions on properties in the ultra-exclusive Billionaire Bunker. He purchased one estate for $90 million and two others for a combined $149 million.

Bezos’s transition to Florida also marked a shift in focus toward his aerospace company Blue Origin, which benefits from proximity to Cape Canaveral — a key location for launching and manufacturing rockets and spacecraft. This strategic relocation supports his vision for space exploration and Blue Origin’s expansion, which is expected to boost local investment and job creation.

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