Most CEOs would say that courting investors is an important, even essential, part of their job. Not Jeff Bezos. His company Amazon
is famous for its aggressive growth and consistent lack of profits. Onstage at the Business Insider Ignition conference on Tuesday, the chief executive admitted that he dedicates just six hours per year to investor relations. In contrast, consider Twitter’s analyst day last month, where executives
presented a seven-hour program.
To cut down on time spent talking to Wall Street, Bezos doesn’t meet with his company’s biggest investors. He also avoids making appearances on the company’s quarterly earnings calls, which are typically led by the company’s chief financial officer. Bezos prefers to meet with the investors with the lowest churn—the ones who have held Amazon’s stock the longest. He has long touted the company’s value as a long-term growth play. His actions underscore the words.
Until recently, Wall Street has mostly bought into Bezos’s vision. The company’s stock has risen from $19 in 1997 to $326 today despite consistent losses. But today’s price is actually a drop—the first sustained one in six years—from an all-time high of $402 a year ago. It’s put Amazon’s much-envied momentum in doubt, as Adam Lashinsky wrote in the most recent issue of Fortune:
Its enemies are emboldened, its products are uneven, and its competitors loom larger than ever. Even the company’s once-bulletproof stock price has been crushed, off 25% from its peak.
Bezos’ response? “It’s a volatile stock. It always has been and probably will be for some time,” he said at Tuesday’s conference. Amazon—20 years young—is still a startup in many ways, he added. Startups are volatile. It’s a tough argument to make for his $151 billion publicly-traded company. At some point, Bezos might have to use some old-fashioned salesmanship. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about the prospect.
You could say it will take another dot-com crash to get his attention. During the slide between 2000 and 2002, the value of Amazon’s shares went from a high of $106 to a low of just $6. “To me, that is a stock movement,” Bezos said, laughing. “When you look at our stock over five years or ten years, it looks good.” And you know what? He’s right. If you had purchased Amazon shares in December 2009, you would be up 148%.