Amazon's infamous 1997 letter to shareholders was reportedly co-written by the company's first CFO, Joy Covey (AMZN)


Joy Covey

  • In 1997, Amazon issued its first letter to shareholders. It has since become infamous in the tech industry, and core to Amazon’s origin story.
  • It laid out Amazon’s long-term goals, and stressed to investors the importance of focusing on long-term value over short-term returns — a strategy since adopted by many major internet companies, from Uber to WeWork.
  • The letter is signed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and has always been attributed to him. But according to reporting by Recode’s Jason Del Rey, the letter may have been co-authored by Amazon’s first CFO, Joy Covey.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In 2019, Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world.

The company has expanded out dramatically from its original role as an online bookstore — Amazon now sells everything from food to homes. Its cloud computing business powers huge swaths of the internet. Its CEO’s divorce is front-page news. 

But in 1997, when the company’s first letter to shareholders was first introduced, Amazon was relatively small. Despite its small footprint at the time, the letter to shareholders laid out a bold vision for the future of the company.

jeff bezos

It laid out a foundation for much of Amazon’s rise to dominance: A relentless focus on customers above all else, and a prioritization of reinvestment over short-term shareholder returns.

That letter, which Amazon continues to issue every year, has gone on to represent much of what the company stands for — a core document that acts as a kind of two-in-one mission statement and origin story. 

Notably, the letter was signed by the man who has gone on to become the face of the company: CEO Jeff Bezos.

But, according to reporting from Recode’s Jason Del Rey in the podcast “Land of the Giants,” the letter was reportedly co-authored by Amazon’s first-ever CFO, Joy Covey.

Covey was crucial to Amazon going public, according to Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker.

“One was the hardcore visionary, in Jeff, and one was the person who was trying to keep it all as stable as possible,” Meeker tells Del Rey in the most recent episode of his podcast. “And they are both adventurers — the first to go down a mountain, or the first to try a new food in a foreign country. They both are ‘let it rip’ kind of people.”

Joy Covey died in 2013 in a bicycle crash. Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment on this report.

SEE ALSO: Read Amazon’s full letter to shareholders from 1997 right here

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