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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Weekend Edition: Amazon’s Bezos: Still Crazy After All These Years

Amazon is a company built on a mad premise which was followed by a number of more crazy ideas that were bolted onto the company as time passed. The most outrageous part of the entire enterprise is that it worked. Selling books online, competing with bookstores, managing huge inventories. Shipping product all over the world.

The fact that Amazon's earnings were good is old news.

But, the company did the improbable up against companies like Barnes & Noble, and more recently Wal-Mart and NetFlix (DVDs), Best Buy (computers and consumer electronics), Kroger and Safeway (food), and almost anyone who sells anything anywhere. The company has even started a movie download busness. In this business it gets to compete with Apple, Disney, and Movielink.

Amazon's audacity comes from its founder Jeff Bezos. He is the only person to have ever run the company. Bezos is chairman. He is president. He is CEO. The next person on the ladder is a senior vice president. Who probably makes no decisions. It is the world according to Bezos.

Amazon's stock has gone through periods when it was as hated as any public company in America. It's shares were at $61 in 1998. Bezos made the cover of Time. By 2003, the stock traded at $16.

At most companies, Bezos would be taken away in a straight-jacket. But, the place is basically his, no matter what the other shareholders think.

His audacity and willingness to take on any competitor, not matter how large, with his online model, has earned him a company with sales moving past $10 billion a year. One that is still growing like a weed.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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