Disney chief Bob Iger might have been called the businessperson of the year in 2019, but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was just crowned businessperson of the decade.

In a survey of CFOs around the world, CNBC found that Jeff Bezos topped all other public company chief executives as the businessperson of the decade. One-third of the surveyed CFOs named Bezos the top chief executive, over Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Tesla chief Elon Musk, who landed in second and third place, respectively. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett were further down the list.

Of course, the survey isn't an exact science and there are plenty of reasons folks might choose Musk or Cook over Bezos, but the CNBC respondents chose him for Amazon's impressive growth in a variety of areas in recent years. It's also an acknowledgement that Amazon has grown from an important e-commerce company to a leader that has fundamentally changed several industries.

It's undeniable what Bezos has achieved at Amazon. He's moved into the smart home market and dominated that space with a virtual personal assistant. Indeed, the future looks to be determined in some way by what people say to Alexa and other virtual assistants.

In the cloud, Amazon has become a giant with help from its AWS platform. And even in the grocery market, Amazon's Whole Foods acquisition promises to position the company as a major player in brick-and-mortar.

Speaking of brick-and-mortar, Amazon is expanding its footprint with cashierless stores that aim at eliminating people and making it easier to shop.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on what Amazon is doing in logistics and whether the company can finally turn its back on third-party companies like UPS and operate its own delivery operation.

Of course, Amazon is also active in mobile and wearables, expanding its presence in digital health, and there are even signs that it might take a run at foodservice distribution. 

It's difficult to find industry sectors that Amazon isn't at least dabbling in. More than that, it's proving difficult to find an industry Amazon has dabbled in that it hasn't managed to change.

During that time, Bezos himself has become the richest person in the world and with his Washington Post acquisition, is doing his part to enhance journalism. His Blue Origin company, which has designs on changing space travel, is also proving to be a major success.

All that's not to say that others like Musk, Cook, and Nadella, haven't also made major marks. But only Musk has come close to doing what Bezos has done in the past decade. He has SpaceX, Tesla's many innovations, and The Boring Company. His hyperloop concept is nothing if not promising. But I'm hard-pressed to believe Musk has done as much as Bezos has in as many industries, and done it all with such success.

Looking ahead, there are no signs of Bezos's influence waning. The biggest question, though, is whether Bezos can use all that power and influence for good. Here's hoping he will.

Published on: Dec 12, 2019
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