‘Bezos needs a boss’: Protesters ask for CEO oversight outside Amazon’s shareholders meeting

Protestors stand outside Amazon’s shareholders meeting in Seattle on Wednesday morning. (GeekWire photo / Todd Bishop)

Protestors made their return to Amazon’s shareholders meeting in Seattle, this year asking the tech giant to create more oversight on its CEO Jeff Bezos, among other requests.

Amazon hosted the annual meeting in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood on Wednesday morning, where a small group of shareholders listened to Bezos and other executives provide updates on the company’s business and strategy.

Outside the Fremont Studios building, protestors from various groups — SEIU, SumOfUs, 350 Seattle, Socialist Alternative — brought signs and chanted. One shareholder proposal up for consideration at today’s meeting called for establishing an independent board chair by separating the positions of CEO and chairman, both currently held by Bezos.

“Jeff Bezos is basically the head of an empire — he has no oversight,” Salma Mirza, campaigns director at SumOfUs, told GeekWire on Wednesday. “It’s a clear conflict of interest.”

That proposal was rejected by shareholders on Wednesday, but 26 percent did vote in favor of the change, according to the company. SumOfUs said afterward that the total was actually closer to 40 percent if not counting Bezos’ ownership stake of 16.7 percent of Amazon and the fact that Amazon counts abstentions as votes against the proposals.

Another shareholder proposal pushed to change that practice, seeking to require the company to no longer count abstentions as votes against shareholder proposals. Shareholders rejected that proposal as well, with 8 percent voting in favor, according to the company.

Other groups protesting on Wednesday included Amazon Air cargo pilots who aren’t happy with what they describe as short staffing and operational issues. There were also people protesting for reduced emissions change and employee pay. Supporters of the Seattle head tax also showed up.

(GeekWire photo / Kaitlyn Wang)

The meeting comes after another big year for Amazon’s business, as the company reported an increase of 31 percent in 2017 net sales, to nearly $178 billion, with annual profits of $3 billion, fueled by its Amazon Web Services cloud computing division. In the past year, Amazon also completed its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market, launched its Amazon Go automated retail store and acquired smart doorbell maker Ring for a reported $1 billion, reflecting its growing ambitions in smart home technology.

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