But Szkutak is not on the Amazon board. He's an inside guy, a numbers guy, not an entrepreneur. There is no clear successor to Bezos at Amazon. The only board member I see with relevant operational experience is Patricia Stonesifer, 56, who once ran the education division at Microsoft (MSFT) but now works at the Gates' Foundation.
We like to think of men like Bezos and Jobs as irreplaceable, but in fact the way you get ahead in business is by replacing yourself. That's the key to meriting a promotion: getting other people trained to do what you do so you merit a bigger job, and there will be no hiccups when you move up.
Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, but he's not chopped liver. He has done a good job consolidating the lead Jobs left in the device market. But he hasn't created any major innovation there, either, which is why Apple now sells at a below-market price-to-earnings ratio of less than 14.
Amazon.com sells at a P/E of more than 1,400. They say it doesn't need profits, but the stock is also worth more than twice its annual sales, at $181 billion, while other retailers are priced at half their sales, and the reason it sells for that is Jeff Bezos.Bezos is a unique character. If that had not just been kidney stones on the Galapagos, or if that helicopter had gone down, we would be looking at a very different situation today. So when Jeff Bezos gets well, it might be a good time to approach him about this whole succession question. Who's No. 2? Who can be groomed to be No. 2 and then No. 1? Jeff Bezos is a hard act to follow, but in time he must be followed, and investors putting good money to work buying Amazon.com stock deserve an answer to that question. At the time of publication, the author owned shares of GE and AAPL.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.