Former Amazon CFO dies in cycling crash

Joy Covey, who helped take the retailer public, was 50.

By MSNMoney partner Sep 20, 2013 10:03AM

Joy Covey, former CFO of, in Seattle, Wash., in August 1999 (© Gail Albert Halaban/CORBIS SABA)By Laurence Arnold, Bloomberg


Joy Covey, who helped take (AMZN) public as the Internet retailer's chief financial officer, has died. She was 50.


She died Wednesday after colliding with a minivan while riding her bicycle downhill on Skyline Blvd. near Portola Valley, Calif., according to Art Montiel, a public information officer at the California Highway Patrol in Redwood City. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The San Mateo County Coroner's Office confirmed her identity.


"Except on an occasional basis when it is critical for me to deal with Wall Street, she makes it possible for me to spend a lot more of my time on the customer experience," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said of Covey, according to the article. "Her job is not only in the CFO capacity but somewhat broader and deeper in communicating our message to investors, which is so important to our future."


Amazon went public on May 14, 1997, with an initial offering price of $18. Shares are now worth about $318.


In 1999, Fortune magazine named Covey on a list of the 50 most powerful women. "As CFO, her feat was convincing Wall Street that a profitless company was worth $22 billion," the magazine wrote.


In a 2002 interview with the Harvard Law Bulletin, Covey recalled of her Amazon years, "Our view was that most companies depart from their best long-term business thinking in order to please Wall Street. And they often do things that are not in the best long-term interest of the business because they're under pressure from investors for short-term results."


Joy Dianne Covey was born on April 25, 1963, in Boston, the second daughter for Maurice C. Covey, a physician, and the former Joan De Vries, according to an obituary of her father, who died in 2011. She grew up in San Mateo, Calif.


She didn't finish high school, moving away from home at 15 and working as a grocery clerk in Fresno, according to the Harvard interview.


She graduated in 1982 from California State University in Fresno and began her career as an accountant at Arthur Young LLP, working for clients including Denny's restaurants, according to the Journal. She graduated from Harvard Law School's joint J.D.-MBA program in 1989.


After a stint at the investment firm Wasserstein Perella & Co., she landed in 1991 as CFO of Digidesign Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif., a digital audio software maker, guiding its IPO and 1995 sale to Avid Technology Inc., according to a profile of her in Forbes magazine. She moved to Boston to work for Avid but soon was back in Silicon Valley. When she started working at Amazon, she won permission to stay in California and commute to company headquarters in Seattle.


When she joined Amazon, it had 150 employees and $16 million in sales. As of December, the company had 88,400 employees and $61 billion in revenue.


She took a salary of less than $100,000 in favor of stock options that, as of 1999, gave her a net worth exceeding $200 million, according to Forbes magazine.


Covey moved from CFO to chief strategy officer in April 1999 and left Amazon in April 2000. She was named to JetBlue Airways Corp.'s board of directors in 2003.


More recently she was a trustee at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which called her "an active environmentalist" who "loves adventure, travel and outdoors activities, including kite surfing, skiing the steeps, and cycling." A pilot, she transported a Mexican gray wolf from a sanctuary outside St. Louis to the woods of the U.S. Southwest and also helped rescue an orphaned grizzly cub from Alaska, according to the NRDC.


Her son Tyler is among her survivors.

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Sep 20, 2013 11:15AM
Condolences to you, Tyler.  Your mother was an accomplished lady.  May you be comforted as much as possible by good memories of times spent with your Mom. 
Sep 20, 2013 11:34AM
What an accomplished, hard working woman.  People like her inspire the rest of us to do more, be more and make the most of our lives.  What a tragedy that could have so easily been avoided, it really makes me think of what I do with my time and how I live my life. 
Sep 20, 2013 11:34AM
My condolences. She was a beautiful person who cared about our world and environment. What a loss to the world! How sad.
Sep 20, 2013 11:34AM
Sad news to read.  Cycling with cars around is very dangerous these days. 
Sep 20, 2013 11:33AM
The article makes her sound like a teen runaway loser by stating she didn't complete high school, left home at 15 and had a job at a grocery store.  But then it states she graduated from college in 1982 and according to the math she was only 19 at the time. Pretty impressive! So why are they making her sound like a high school dropout if she went straight to college? Poorly written...
Sep 20, 2013 11:37AM

If she didn't finish high school, how did she get into Cal State and graduate at the age of 19 in 1982? Are there any reporters left who can report clearly and accurately?

Sep 20, 2013 11:49AM
sometimes I wonder why I am still alive, when I have not accomplished that much, and others that are so brilliant and accomplished die so young?  Maybe losers like me are given more time to get their act together and accomplish something!  Always so sad to hear about such a wasted loss.  Prayers for the family. 
Sep 20, 2013 11:57AM
This is truly sad. Condolences to her family. On a different note, refreshing to hear of and executive that was hard working, self-made, and deserving of their wealth/title. If we had more like her, the county would be a much better place.
Sep 20, 2013 12:16PM

She left home at fifteen?  I have a feeling there is an interesting back story in this statement.  But she went to college, got into Harward, and accomplished a great deal in her life.

I live in a town with a lot of cyclists.  I am always left to wonder at the confidence with which they ride along the shoulder of narrow lanes, evidently completely confident that the drivers coming up behind them at forty plus m.p.h. are going to avoid them.  I just don't trust the drivers enough to turn my back on them.  I'll stick to the bike trails off road, thank you very much. 

I am left with the words my father told me when I was learning to drive.  "Having the right of way does not mean you will survive the collision."

Sep 20, 2013 11:45AM

A tragic loss of a well accomplished human being.  RIP and condolences to her family.


Sep 20, 2013 11:58AM
What a woman of great accomplishments.  Died way too young.  R.I.P. Ms. Covey.  You will be missed in this world.
Sep 20, 2013 12:01PM
Sincereest condolences to her family and friends.  Too young to die.  Obviously a caring human being with many accomplishments.
Sep 20, 2013 11:41AM
I will never understand riding a bike in the same arena with cars that weigh tons. It is a battle that is impossible to win. Please take a lesson in how easy it is to loose a loved one.
Sep 20, 2013 12:03PM
How sad what an interesting and accomplishd woman. smart too!
Sep 20, 2013 12:46PM

Wow, had to pause and offer Condolences to the family.


Ride a bike to work every day, been lucky so far.  If you ride a bike as your primary transportation this type of tragedy is always on your mind.   


Can only imagine the horror the Van driver must be feeling as well.



Sep 20, 2013 11:58AM
jeepers, always a bit sad when pioneers like this die young.
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