Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos is Fortune's Businessperson of the Year, the magazine has announced.
Fortune singled out Bezos for a number of accomplishments in the past year, as well as for a dedication to promoting innovation and for long-standing management techniques like his "S-team" meetings of senior executives which begin with participants reading printed memos called "narratives, sitting "in total silence for as long as 30 minutes."
"The three big ideas at Amazon are long-term thinking, customer obsession, and a willingness to invent," Bezos told Fortune, adding, "We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent."
Amazon under Bezos has also diversified in ways that go far beyond the company's origins as an online book retailer that emerged as one of the great success stories of the dot.com era in the late 1990s. The Seattle-based company now sells enough kinds of merchandise to legitimately compete with Walmart and other brick-and-mortar retail giants.
The world's biggest online retailer is also a top global purveyor of technology services, thanks to Amazon's clever leveraging of its sprawling cloud-based infrastructure and enviable software development platform - building a single, company-wide software structure has been a Bezos obsession in recent years.
Then there are the Kindles. Bezos essentially jump-started the e-reader market a few years back with the introduction of the Kindle, thought by many industry watchers to be a foolish move at the time. Last year, Amazon rolled out its first tablet, the Kindle Fire, offering a cheap, Android-based alternative to Apple's dominant iPad—and where various computer and mobile device makers like Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion had failed spectacularly with similar attempts to unseat the iPad, Bezos and Amazon's slate was a big success.
Bezos's peers and competitors, such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, were quick to praise the man. "Jeff is a manic competitor, a delightful human being, and a trusted supplier," Hastings told Fortune.
In a long profile of Bezos listing his recent accomplishments, Fortune compared the Amazon founder and CEO favorably to the late Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder considered to have been the gold standard for artfully navigating the fast-paced world of consumer technology and reinventing his company to meet ever-changing challenges.
"With Steve's passing, Bezos is the epitome of the venture-backed CEO," venture capitalist Bill Gurley told the magazine, adding that "if you were to ask 100 startup entrepreneurs who the CEO is they admire most, he would show up on 95 of the ballots."
But if Bezos is the new Jobs - to be fair, Fortune also went to great lengths to talk up certain differences between the two tech icons - where does that leave Jobs' successor as Apple CEO, Tim Cook? As runner-up on the magazine's list of top execs, it turns out.
The 2012 list also turns out to be dominated at the top by leaders in the technology and telecommunications sectors. Among those following Bezos and Cook on Fortune's list of top business figures for the past year are Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, eBay CEO John Donahoe, Samsung CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon, and Google CEO Larry Page.
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