Joy Covey, an executive who joined Amazon.com when it was a new company with big ideas and played a major role in turning those ideas into reality, died on Wednesday after the bicycle she was riding struck a delivery van in a remote stretch of San Mateo County, Calif. She was 50.
The police said that a minivan apparently making deliveries for OnTrac, a shipping service used by Amazon and other online retailers, was turning onto a side road when the accident occurred along Skyline Boulevard. Ms. Covey was pronounced dead at the scene. The van driver was not charged.
As Amazon's first chief financial officer, Ms. Covey helped take the company public and was an independent-minded advocate for Amazon's plans to ignore Wall Street and invest for the future. That notion, radical in its day, was the foundation for Amazon's growth into a $61 billion retailing and entertainment behemoth.
In its early days, Amazon prided itself on its unconventional hires, telling staffing agencies to "send us your freaks." Ms. Covey did not have a traditional background. She dropped out of high school at 15 and worked as a grocery clerk. She attended Cal State Fresno and later Harvard Law School, where, she said, she did not fit in.
"We'd go to lunch and people would talk about their favorite 17th-century poets, and I'd be thinking, 'Could I even name five poets? From any century?' "
But after joining Amazon in late 1996, when its annual revenue was less than $20 million, she thrived. She sold Wall Street the debt that the company needed to expand. The company went public on May 14, 1997, with an initial offering price of $18. Shares this week were selling for more than $312. Her own wealth is estimated at more than $200 million.
Joy Dianne Covey was born on April 25, 1963, in Boston, to Maurice C. Covey, a physician, and the former Joan De Vries, a nurse. She grew up in San Mateo and lived in Woodside, Calif.
As the senior woman in a red-hot Internet company, Ms. Covey drew a great deal of attention, including a profile in Forbes magazine headlined "A Real Amazon."
She left Amazon in 2000, as the dot-com boom was ending. Survivors include a young son, Tyler.