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Amazon's first CFO Joy Covey dies in bicycle accident

The tech entrepreneur who oversaw the online retailer's massive expansion and masterminded its IPO has passed away at age 50.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

A self-made woman, tech entrepreneur, and intellectual powerhouse, Joy Covey died in a bicycle accident on Wednesday. She served as Amazon's first chief financial officer and was instrumental in making the massive e-commerce company what it is today.

Covey was 50 years old when she collided with a van on a rural road in San Mateo County, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

"It's a very sad day for Amazon," Amazon spokesperson Mary Osako told CNET. "Joy was a wonderful human being and treasured colleague, and we will miss her very much."

At the time of her death, Covey was working as the treasurer for the environmental group National Resources Defense Council. But, she had a long history working in the tech sector -- and she got there using her quick intellect and determined work ethic.

In an interview with the Harvard Law Bulletin in 2002, Covey talked about how she dropped out of high school, left home when she was 15, and went to work as a grocery clerk. Shortly afterward, at 17, she decided to go to college, graduating in two and a half years from Fresno State. She then went on to get dual law and MBA degrees at Harvard in 1989.

By the time Covey joined Amazon as its CFO in 1996, she had already worked as the CFO of the digital-audio startup Digidesign. At Amazon, Covey oversaw the company's financial boom, international expansion, and various features on the site such as the video and music store launches. She also masterminded the company's initial public offering in 1997.

"A lot of things we did were things that hadn't been done before, or situations that had never been dealt with," Covey told the Harvard Law Bulletin. "Rather than asking ourselves, 'How has this been done in the past? What's the answer to this question?' we said, 'Where do we want to go and what are our goals?'"

Covey left Amazon in April 2000 to focus on her family, travel, and environmental issues. Besides working for the National Resources Defense Council, Covey also established the Beagle Foundation, which gives funding to environmental causes.