Bezos lays down gauntlet to retail rivals in investor letter

Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos. (Bloomberg pic)

SEATTLE: Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is daring rival retailers to raise their minimum wage to US$16 an hour.

Bezos laid down the challenge in his annual shareholder letter, published Thursday. Bezos routinely uses the letter to outline his long-term strategy, which made him the world’s wealthiest man and Amazon one of the most valuable companies.

“Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our US$15 minimum wage,” Bezos said. “Do it! Better yet, go to US$16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”

The company in October pledged to pay all of its warehouse workers at least US$15 an hour, after presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren held out Amazon workers on food stamps as an example of the need for living wage protections.

This was Bezos’s first shareholder letter since his personal affairs became tabloid fodder.

The CEO in January announced his divorce from his wife of 25 years, Mackenzie Bezos, and the couple last week announced a settlement that leaves Bezos with 75% of their stock in the company. He remains Amazon’s biggest shareholder.

Bezos made no direct mention of the divorce in his annual letter, maintaining distance between the company’s operations and his personal life.

Bezos includes his 1997 shareholder letter to remind investors of his ability to capitalise on how the internet would change the nature of shopping.

His strategy and outlook have developed a cult-like following similar to that of Warren Buffett, whose annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway investors are must-reads for those looking to understand the economy and Buffett’s investment strategy.