Bezos steps down, India vs. Rihanna, spinach emails

Bezos steps down, India vs. Rihanna, spinach emails

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon CEO. Just as his company announces its first $100 billion quarter, he is handing the reins to cloud services head Andy Jassy.

“This isn’t about retiring.” In an all-staff email, Bezos told the company he wants to focus on his “other passions.”

The US treasury secretary is summoning regulators over GameStop. Janet Yellen called a meeting to discuss market volatility driven by retail trading.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine could cut transmission. A single dose could also offer protection for up to three months, preliminary findings show, but the company has supply issues in Europe.

India criticized Rihanna. The singer tweeted about the ongoing farmers’ protests, but the Indian government called her “sensationalist” and “irresponsible.”

China’s anti-corruption drive is sweeping through tech firms. Tencent blacklisted 37 firms and fired more than 100 staff over suspicions of embezzlement and bribery.

There are no Black leaders in the UK’s biggest listed companies. The FTSE 100 has zero Black chairs, CEOs, or CFOs, and hardly anyone at the top who isn’t white.

What to watch for

Uber is becoming a delivery service. The company formerly known as a “ride-hailing service” announced that it will buy Drizly, an alcohol delivery startup, for approximately $1.1 billion in stock and cash. With Uber jettisoning its mobility-based projects—flying taxis and automated vehicles—it seems clear that the company is changing direction, writes Michelle Cheng. And the market envisions a smooth road ahead, sending Uber’s stock climbing at the news.

What else is Uber delivering?

🍕 Meals: Uber Eats holds 22% of the US delivery market

🥕 Groceries: Uber acquired Postmates in 2020

💊 Prescriptions: Uber partnered with NimbleRx in 2020

🚕 People: Well, not nearly as much since the pandemic began. Both Uber and Lyft will report earnings next week, giving investors a glimpse into how the ride-hailing industry is faring.

Charting ExxonMobil’s earnings

ExxonMobil posted a fourth-quarter loss of $20.1 billion on Feb. 2—its fourth consecutive quarter in the red—after writing down $19 billion in “less strategic” oil-producing assets. In that, the company joins other US and European oil outfits, which wrote down a collective $145 billion in the first three quarters of 2020 due to the pandemic and concerns about climate change.

A chart showing the huge drop in quarterly earnings for ExxonMobil.

The oil giant also made a surprise promise to invest $3 billion in carbon capture technology by 2025, through a newly minted subsidiary venture called ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. Tim McDonnell argues we shouldn’t get too excited, though—Exxon is still no champion for climate action.

Hygiene theater

A selection of masks designed by NYU to be used in a performance of Romeo and Juliet.
Image: NYU / Lauren Carmen and Krista Intranuovo

Live theater’s pandemic survival is coming down to costume design. Anne Quito tells us how New York University’s costume department has played a crucial role in the theater wing’s avant-garde staging of Romeo and Juliet, tailoring Covid-compliant face masks that double as a storytelling device.

Under hot lights for extended hours, thespians offer an extreme-use case for mask makers, and the quest to improve upon standard face masks serves as a vital lesson in design accessibility. And anyway, theater has a long history of relying on masks.

✦ Parting is such sweet sorrow—stick around with a Quartz membership. Try it out free for seven days.

Surprising discoveries

In Germany, sugar-free chocolate isn’t chocolate. The official rules say chocolate has to contain sugar.

cc: Popeye. MIT engineers have taught spinach to send emails when it senses explosive chemicals in the water supply.

Fake mountaineering news will get you banned. Two climbers had Everest summit photos that didn’t add up.

Naked mole rats imitate the queen’s speech. Each colony ends up with its own dialect.

Pranksters briefly scrambled the Hollywood sign. The culprits said they were just trying to raise breast cancer awareness.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sugary choco bars, or fake Everest news to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Hasit Shah, Mary Hui, Tripti Lahiri, Jordan Lebeau, and Susan Howson.