Today, Amazon’s cloud chief Andy Jassy is Jeff Bezos’ successor for the role of Amazon CEO. But 24 years ago, he was just a young staffer accidentally bonking Bezos on the head with a kayak paddle.
The whacking occurred during a company “broomball” game, as recounted in Brad Stone’s 2013 book, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.” Stone also announced on Tuesday a follow-up to the best-selling book, “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire,” which arrives May 11 and will focus on the last 10 years of Amazon under Bezos’ leadership.
On Tuesday, Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, announced that he would step down and that Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services, will replace him later in 2021. But back in 1997, the two men were engaged in a game that was equal parts playful and symbolic.
The story goes that broomball was introduced by one of Amazon’s vice presidents at a company conference. The setup of the game, Stone recounts, was a bit unorthodox: “players swatted a kickball on the lawn with brooms and other random implements from his garage,” he wrote.
Fun fact, one of the first impressions new Amazon CEO @ajassy made on Jeff Bezos was whacking him in the head with a kayak paddle in a game of broom ball, circa ’97. Considering Bezos isn’t going anywhere, Jassy’s rise to the top spot may be the bigger story today.
— Brad Stone (@BradStone) February 2, 2021
Though the image of two leaders of one of the most influential companies in the world brandishing broomsticks may be funny, Stone recounts “an undercurrent of intense competition” during the game that was typical of Bezos’ expansionist worldview.
“In other words [broomball] perfectly expressed the temperament of Jeff Bezos, who stopped by the meeting and threw himself into the inaugural Amazon broomball contest with gusto. At one point, Andy Jassy, then a new recruit from Harvard, made his first significant impression at the company by inadvertently hitting Bezos in the head with a kayak paddle. Later, Bezos dove after the ball into some hedges and tore his blue oxford shirt,” Stone wrote.
It’s safe to say Bezos has since forgiven his successor for the accidental transgression.