covey
Joy Covey

Some tragic news to report today.

Joy Covey, who served as Amazon.com’s first chief financial officer from 1996 to 2000, was killed in a bike accident in Silicon Valley Wednesday. She was pronounced dead at the scene after a minivan struck her on Skyline Boulevard near her home in Woodside, California.

Covey, who most recently served as treasurer of the Natural Resources Defense Council ,  was 50 years old. In 1999, Fortune named her one of the 50 Most Powerful Business Women in America.

“It’s a very sad day at Amazon. Joy was a wonderful human being and treasured colleague, and we will miss her very much,” said Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako.

Shel Kaphan, who worked with Covey in the early days at Amazon, called Covey an “extremely smart and motivated person” who was “insightful, energetic and cheerful.” He described as one of the most goal-oriented and achievement-oriented people that he’s ever met.

“At work, among other things, she drove the IPO process and also one of the debt offerings and did them with a tremendous amount of skill, energy, and attention to detail,” recalled Kaphan, who was Amazon.com’s first employee.  “She was also able to get Bezos to agree to things that needed doing that others (including me) tried and failed to do.”

“In my experience she was always a pleasure to work with, and you won’t find a picture of her without a big smile on her face,” said Kaphan.

Kara Swisher at All Things D remembers Covey as “tough, but fair” and a “wonderful mother, and a good friend to many in the tech community.” Swisher, who was friends with Covey, had this to say.

Actually, Joy was a force of numbers and of Wall Street and, well, of a lot of things. She left Amazon in 2000, but should be credited with being a key reason for its initial success, and also for leaving in place a structure that allowed it to soar.

Here’s an interview with Covey from the Harvard Law Journal in which she shared the Amazon.com ethos around long-term thinking.

“A lot of things we did were things that hadn’t been done before, or situations that had never been dealt with. Rather than asking ourselves, “How has this been done in the past? What’s the answer to this question?” we said, “Where do we want to go and what are our goals?” We spent a lot of time thinking unconventionally, and thinking through things based on our core principles, which is the kind of thought process I learned in law school.”

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with comments from Amazon.com and Shel Kaphan.

Comments

  • Kelley Picasso

    A world-changer who still had so much to offer. I don’t know what’s after this life, but I hope it’s ready for Ms. Covey. :(

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