Amazon will go bankrupt one day, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of the e-commerce colossus worth almost $1 trillion, told his employees in a stunning admission.
“Amazon is not too big to fail,” Bezos said last week during an all-hands meeting in Seattle, where someone asked his about the company’s future, according to a recording heard by CNBC.
“In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years,” he said, days before the company announced its plan to venture into Queens.
Specifically, the employees asked Bezos, 54, what lessons he’s learned from the recent bankruptcies of Sears and other big retailers.
The key to fending off the inevitable, Bezos continued, is for Amazon to “obsess over customers” and to avoid looking inward, worrying about itself.
“If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end,” he said. “We have to try and delay that day for as long as possible.”
Bezos’ comments surfaced shortly after the company announced it will open offices in Long Island City and the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.
Despite Amazon’s unprecedented success, with a workforce of more than 600,000 employees and a stock price that has more than quadrupled since 2013, some within its ranks worry about the pace of expansion.
During a previous all-hands meeting in March, Bezos was asked whether tech companies like his must be more closely regulated due to their market power and influence.
“It’s a fact that we’re a large company,” he said, according to a recording obtained by CNBC. “It’s reasonable for large institutions of any kind, whether it be companies or governments, to be scrutinized.”
Several employees who agreed to speak with CNBC on condition of anonymity raised concerns about government regulation and the potential for antitrust violations as they look at the future of Amazon, which is expected to capture 48 percent of all online sales in the US this year, the news outlet reported, citing eMarketer.
An Amazon rep didn’t comment on the all-hands meeting, but addressed the antitrust issues by citing a Wall Street Journal interview with Jeff Wilke, the company’s CEO of the worldwide consumer division.
In the piece, Wilke said Amazon is engaged in a diverse group of businesses and accounts for “less than 1 percent” of the global retail market.
Bezos also owns The Washington Post, which has been a lightning rod of criticism for some conservatives, including President Trump, who told Axios last week that his administration was looking into antitrust violations by Amazon.
During last week’s meeting, Bezos injected some levity into his answer about how Amazon can survive, saying companies that have made it the longest tend to sell beer.
“Most of the companies that are multi-hundred-year-old companies are breweries,” he said, laughing. “It’s very interesting — I’m not sure what that says about society.”
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