Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is speaking right now with Business Insider co-founder Henry Blodget at the site’s IGNITION conference in New York City, addressing topics including Amazon’s culture, its recently resolved battle with Hachette, and Wall Street’s reaction to the company’s long-term investment strategy.
At one point, the conversation turned to Bezos’ current role and the company’s future beyond its founder.
Bezos: As the company has grown, of course, my job has changed very much. My main job today, I work hard at helping to maintain the culture — a culture of high standards, of operational excellence, inventiveness, willingness to fail. … But I’m not going to be here forever. Many of the traits that make Amazon unusual are now deeply ingrained in the culture. In fact, if I wanted to change them, I couldn’t. … Cultures are self-reinforcing, and that’s a good thing. …
Blodget: Is there a succession plan?
Bezos: Yeah, there’s a succession plan for me and all of our senior executives.
Blodget: So there is somebody who would take over.
Bezos: Yep, absolutely.
Bezos: Secret! (Big laugh)
Bezos is an investor in Business Insider, by the way. Blodget noted that the topic of succession is relevant given Bezos’ highly publicized bout with kidney stones this year, but Bezos said that was more painful than life-threatening.
As for his health and enthusiasm for the company, he noted that he recently went on a great vacation with his wife’s family, thoroughly enjoyed himself, and couldn’t wait to get back to work.
“I got back to Seattle, and I ran into the office, I’m having so much fun,” he said.
On the topic of drone delivery, Bezos acknowledged the hurdles that could be caused by the FAA’s draft regulations. “It’s sad but possible that the U.S. could be late,” he said, noting that other countries are likely to be first.
Addressing the Amazon Fire phone flop, Bezos said, “People love to focus on things that aren’t working. That’s fine, but it’s incredibly hard to get people to take bold bets. And if you push people to take bold bets, there will be experiments … that don’t work.”
On the topic of his purchase of the Washington Post, Bezos said he was first skeptical when he was approached about the possibility. “Why would I be a candidate to buy the Washington Post? I don’t know anything about newspapers.”
But over time, he warmed to the idea. “I became very optimistic and in the intervening year I’ve become even more optimistic,” he said.