Twenty seven years after starting Amazon out of his garage and turning it into one (amazon stock)   of the world’s most valuable companies, founder Jeff Bezos said on Tuesday he is stepping down as CEO. Bezos has been a recurring character in the pages for Forbes since the days when he was a scrappy entrepreneur in the crosshairs of Barnes & Noble to a net worth of $196 billion.



"A couple of years ago, people were looking at Barnes & Noble's plans to go on-line and calling us Amazon.toast —and I thought they had a pretty good argument!" Bezos joked to Forbes in 1999. "But what they didn't understand is how the Internet shifts power to the customer.”

Here’s a retrospective, in photos, of his path to becoming the world’s richest person. Below is a look back at the pivotal moments from his tenure, which set the course (amazon stock)   for the company and forever reshaped the retail industry:

Books were the beginning, but certainly not the end

Jeff Bezos took on the big bookstore chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble when he started selling books online in 1994. By the time the company went public three years later, it carried more than 2.5 million titles and generated annual sales of (amazon stock)   $148 million. Its inventory turned over 42 times that year, compared to only 2.1 times for Barnes & Noble. “Amazon.com cannot exist in the physical world," Bezos told Forbes in 1996, the first year that the company appeared in the publication. "No metropolitan area could support a million-title bookstore."

Plus, Bezos didn’t have any intention at stopping there. By 1998, Amazon had begun expanding its offering to include all sorts of things, like CDs, DVDs, clothing, toys and office products. Bezos also began to hint at his outsized ambitions, (amazon stock)   dropping the company’s tagline as the “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” and beginning to describe Amazon as an online retailer that would offer “Earth’s Biggest Selection.”


In 1999, Amazon invited third-party sellers to begin listing merchandise on the marketplace and compete directly with the products that Amazon sold itself. These sellers (mostly small and medium-sized businesses) now form the backbone of the e-commerce giant, generating roughly 60% of its product sales today, double the percentage they represented a decade ago.

Making two-day shipping the new normal

In 2005, Bezos introduced a new loyalty program called Amazon Prime with an enticing perk: For $79 a year, customers could receive free, two-day shipping on their orders. That would quickly shape customer expectations for online shopping (amazon stock)   and send the rest of the industry scrambling to compete. Amazon has remained a step ahead, thanks to over 100 fulfillment centers where it packages and sends out items. It has also built out its own transportation fleet that rivals the post office, with ShipMatrix recently estimating that it is (amazon stock)   delivering two thirds of its own packages. In 2019, it said it would invest further to bring one-day shipping to its Prime members.

Creating a cash cow to fund the retail business

In 2006, Amazon began offering cloud computing services to other businesses. It had built the technology to run its own website and figured perhaps it could make a buck hawking it to others. Called Amazon Web Services, it quickly attracted (amazon stock)   customers from NASA to Netflix. It has served as a cash cow for the company, generating $35 billion in sales in 2019 and helping offset losses from the retail business.

“He's taken two very major industries, and simultaneously, and sort of under the nose of competitors, he's become in effect the leader and is redefining them and (amazon stock)   succeeding at really big businesses,” said Warren Buffett of Bezos’ success in both the retail and cloud