Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has become one of the most successful tech companies in the world. As its market cap has risen to over $1 trillion, its chief executive officer and founder, Jeff Bezos, has become the world’s richest man. The board that oversees Amazon is small for a huge corporation. However, each member apparently has been chosen for a specific background in governance and business development.
Bezos is chair of the board of the company he founded in 1994. Although his 15.1% ownership does not give him sole, outright control of Amazon, it does help put him in a place from which he has effective control.
Rosalind G. Brewer (the retailer) joined the board in early 2019. As the Group President, Americas, and chief operating officer of Starbucks, she is in a unique position to help Amazon with its brick-and-mortar business; in particular, Whole Foods.
Jamie S. Gorelick (the lawyer) has been on the Amazon board since 2012. She is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. She also has been a Deputy Attorney General of the United States and general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense. Amazon has run into increasing pressure from the government because of what has been described as a monopoly position. There is a chance its presence in e-commerce faces stiff regulation. Also, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud business, does a great deal of business with the government.
Daniel P. Huttenlocher (the scientist) has been on the board since September 2016. He is currently dean of MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. Amazon has one of the most technically complicated retail infrastructures in the world. Some of its logistics are run by advanced automation. Its Alexa-powered household aids are essentially run by modest artificial intelligence software. AWS is among the larger tech providers to tens of thousands of companies.
Judith A. McGrath (the media expert) was the board chair and CEO of MTV Networks Entertainment Group, which was once among the largest cable channels in America. She oversaw original programming the channel used to draw viewers. Amazon Prime’s streaming video service is among the largest in the world, with over 100 million subscribers. Part of its edge is the creation of original programming, on which it spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year. She has been on the board since July 2014.
Indra K. Nooyi (the consumer products expert) was the CEO of PepsiCo until her retirement in 2019. She has been on the Amazon board since February 2019. Amazon’s food and consumer products foodprint has grown rapidly, through both its Whole Foods operations and the large selection of food products it sells through Amazon.com.
Jonathan J. Rubinstein (the Wall St. connection), was co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates from May 2016 to April 2017. He joined the board in December 2010. Bridgewater is the largest hedge fund in America and has about $140 billion in assets. Its founder, Ray Dalio, is among the most influential financiers in the world.
Thomas O. Ryder (the transaction expert) was the president of American Express Travel Related Services International. He joined the Amazon board in November 2002 and is one of the board’s senior members. He was also head of the Reader’s Digest Association, which at the time was one of the world’s largest magazine publishers. He has expertise in subscription businesses like Amazon Prime, which is an important aspect of Amazon’s business. Amazon’s credit card transactions are a key engine of its e-commerce operations. Amazon also issues its own credit cards.
Patricia Q. Stonesifer (the philanthropist) was CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the world. Amazon promotes its efforts to provide help to “underprivileged communities” where it has a “physical presence.” Most recently, it has publicized its help to its employees and customers during the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. She joined the board in February 1997 and is the longest-serving member, other than Bezos.
Wendell P. Weeks (the multinational CEO) is head of Corning and is the only active CEO of a worldwide public company on the Amazon board. He joined in February 2016. He has experience selling products in all the world’s largest companies. He also oversees Corning’s operating and staff functions, oversight roles Bezos has at Amazon.
The board members are well paid. Each received stock awards of just over $900,000 last year.