Amazon Prime, the ecommerce giant’s membership program that includes access to Prime Video, now counts more than 200 million subscribers globally, founder Jeff Bezos wrote in his final annual letter to shareholders as CEO.
Bezos most recently had announced that Amazon Prime had topped 150 million members in January 2020. The company rarely releases such metrics and doesn’t break out the number of Prime members by country or region, nor has it revealed specific numbers about Prime Video viewership. In the U.S., Amazon Prime costs $119 per year or $12.99 per month (plus taxes).
Earlier this year, Amazon said Bezos will step down as CEO in the third quarter of 2021 to become executive chairman. His handpicked successor is Andy Jassy, currently CEO of Amazon Web Services.
“In my upcoming role as Executive Chair, I’m going to focus on new initiatives,” Bezos wrote in the letter, without being specific. “I’m an inventor. It’s what I enjoy the most and what I do best. It’s where I create the most value. I’m excited to work alongside the large team of passionate people we have in Ops and help invent in this arena of Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”
Bezos thanked Jassy for taking on the role of CEO, writing, “It’s a hard job with a lot of responsibility. Andy is brilliant and has the highest of high standards. I guarantee you that Andy won’t let the universe make us typical. He will muster the energy needed to keep alive in us what makes us special.”
In the 4,000-word letter, released Thursday, Bezos outlined other major milestones since he started the company as an online bookstore in 1994.
Amazon now directly employs 1.3 million people around the world. More than 1.9 million small and midsize businesses sell products on Amazon.com, comprising nearly 60% of total retail sales. In addition, customers have connected more than 100 million smart-home devices to Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant.
Last week Amazon fended off a union organization effort by workers at its Bessemer, Ala., fulfillment center — with fewer than 30% of votes cast in favor of joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Bezos addressed the union vote in Alabama, admitting Amazon needs to improve its support of workers: “Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t. I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success.”
According to Bezos, internal surveys of fulfillment center employees have show 94% say they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work. He also noted that two and a half years ago, when Amazon set a $15-per-hour minimum wage for hourly employees, “we did so because we wanted to lead on wages – not just run with the pack – and because we believed it was the right thing to do.”
In addition, Bezos cited a recent study by economists at the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University showing that Amazon’s setting a $15-per-hour minimum resulted in a 4.7% increase in the average hourly wage among other employers in the same labor market.
Bezos noted that Amazon’s current market capitalization is about $1.6 trillion, and acknowledged that “my Amazon shares have made me wealthy.” (He currently has a net worth of $195 billion, per Bloomberg.) But other shareholders have benefited from Amazon’s meteoric growth, including “pension funds, universities, and 401(k)s” as well as individual investors, Bezos wrote.