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Originally published September 19, 2013 at 6:31 PM | Page modified September 20, 2013 at 6:21 AM

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Calif. bike crash kills Joy Covey, CFO when Amazon had IPO

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Joy Covey, who helped take Amazon.com public as the Internet retailer’s chief financial officer, has died.

Ms. Covey, 50, died Sept. 18 after colliding with a minivan while riding her bicycle downhill on Skyline Boulevard, near Portola Valley, Calif., according to a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

At Amazon, which she joined in 1996, she served as CFO, then chief strategy officer, in the pioneering days of Internet retailing. Her tasks included persuading investors to be patient as Amazon endured money-losing years on its way to becoming the dominant online seller, according to a 1999 Wall Street Journal story.

Amazon went public May 14, 1997, with an $18 initial public offering price. Shares closed Thursday at a record $312.06.

In 1999, Fortune magazine named her to 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, she 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.”

Ms. Covey graduated in 1982 from California State University in Fresno and began her career as an accountant at Arthur Young, according to the Journal. She graduated from Harvard Law School’s joint J.D.-MBA program in 1989.

After a stint at investment firm Wasserstein Perella, she landed in 1991 as CFO of Digidesign in Menlo Park, Calif., a digital audio-software maker, guiding its IPO and 1995 sale to Avid Technology, 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 the company’s Seattle headquarters. 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.

Ms. Covey moved from CFO to chief strategy officer in April 1999 and left Amazon in April 2000.

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