Internal memo: Key Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn officially leaving, hinting at new role elsewhere – GeekWire

HomeTechnology

Internal memo: Key Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn officially leaving, hinting at new role elsewhere – GeekWire

Amazon executive Jeff Blackburn speaks at his alma mater, Dartmouth College, in 2015. (Dartmouth / Eli Burakian Photo, used with per

Tesla’s advanced Autopilot, FSD features to find home in Germany as gov’t allows Lvl 4 autonomy
Nokia 5.4 first impressions: The competition looks tough
Hofstra Law kicks off Vision 2020 campaign – Long Island Business News – Long Island Business News
Amazon executive Jeff Blackburn speaks at his alma mater, Dartmouth College, in 2015. (Dartmouth / Eli Burakian Photo, used with permission.)

Another Jeff is moving on from his longtime Amazon executive role, filling out the picture of what has become a massive leadership transition at the tech giant.

Jeff Blackburn, the senior vice president who played a key behind-the-scenes role as one of Jeff Bezos’ top lieutenants for more than two decades, is leaving Amazon as of today, following a year-long sabbatical, he wrote in a message to Amazon’s senior leaders, posted to the company’s intranet and obtained by GeekWire.

“I’m not retiring and will have news on what’s next for me soon,” Blackburn wrote.

The company isn’t saying where Blackburn is expected to land next, but Bezos made it clear that it’s not likely to be a subject of contention.

Blackburn “has kept me in the loop on his next chapter, and I can assure you it’s a very exciting one!” Bezos wrote in his response, also posted Tuesday to the Amazon intranet. “I predict that Jeff will be every bit as amazing in his new role as he’s been in all his roles at Amazon. Easy prediction. Big congrats to you, Jeff.” [See full messages from Bezos and Blackburn below.]

Much has changed in Amazon’s executive suite in Blackburn’s year away.

  • Bezos this month announced plans to step down as CEO in the third quarter of this year, shifting to a role as executive chairman, replaced as CEO by Andy Jassy, the longtime Amazon Web Services leader.
  • Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer CEO, announced in October that he would be leaving in the first quarter of this year, replace by Dave Clark, the former head of worldwide operations.

Blackburn showed his sense of humor in his message to the senior leadership team, or s-team, joking about one challenge that his departure will resolve.

“The ‘too many Jeff’s’ bug that’s been bothering many of you for two decades has been fixed!” he wrote. “Over the years, we’ve always had multiple Jeff’s on s-team—Jeff Wilke, Jeff B, myself, and for a time Jeff Holden.  It’s actually how I became “jblack” to many of you and to employees across Amazon.  Wilke’s retirement meant one less Jeff, and today, I’m taking it down to just the original.”

Like Wilke, Blackburn had been viewed previously as a potential successor to Bezos as CEO, not for continuity of first names, but for depth of experience. As Blackburn noted in memo, his association with Amazon started when he was a junior investment banker at Deutsche Bank, assigned to work on the Amazon IPO. During his more than 21 years of active work at the company, Blackburn led key businesses including Amazon’s third-party sales, Prime Video, Amazon Music and Amazon Advertising, working alongside Bezos on key business initiatives.

In his message Tuesday, Blackburn recalled one pivotal moment: “In early 1998, I was told by the legendary CFO Joy Covey, that the website might become more than books… ‘you need to just come up here now, trust me’. Wow, you mean like Tapes & CDs & VHS? Done.”

Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn (right) talks with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the sidelines of a Monday Night Football game in Seattle in December 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

He also navigated public challenges along the way. In 2018, Blackburn faced criticism from Amazon Studios employees for what they reportedly perceived as him glossing over the circumstances of studio chief Roy Price’s resignation following a sexual harassment allegation against Price. Speaking with employees, Blackburn “sought to cast the situation as a fresh start for an organization already undertaking a bold new strategy,” but his message “frustrated some employees,” news publication The Information reported at the time.

One effect of Blackburn’s departure will be to give Jassy a chance to reshape more of the Amazon leadership team as he assumes the reins as CEO later this year. A key announcement that has yet to be made by the company is who will succeed Jassy as CEO of AWS, the company’s fast-growing and profitable cloud division.

In his message to the leadership team, Blackburn said he hopes that he pushed them and Amazon “to be even more bold, see around corners, think big,” during his tenure. “With the core business in as strong a position as it’s ever been, I know that’s what customers will want from you over the next decade.”

Here is Blackburn’s message, followed by Bezos’ reply, as posted to Amazon’s intranet.

Steam: I have an important update for you all, one I know you’ve been waiting on for a long time. The “too many Jeff’s” bug that’s been bothering many of you for two decades has been fixed! Over the years, we’ve always had multiple Jeff’s on s-team—Jeff Wilke, Jeff B, myself, and for a time Jeff Holden. It’s actually how I became “jblack” to many of you and to employees across Amazon. Wilke’s retirement meant one less Jeff, and today, I’m taking it down to just the original.

I am officially leaving Amazon today. In late 1996, I was a junior investment banker at Deutsche Bank, assigned to a potential Amazon IPO project. I did the excel models, wrote chunks of the AMZN IPO prospectus, etc. One of the things that sticks with me to this day is that I was the one who carried all the team’s heavier bags during our three weeks of global travel. There was no Zoom or Chime, so it was quite a grueling process back then.

In early 1998, I was told by the legendary CFO Joy Covey, that the website might become more than books… “you need to just come up here now, trust me”. Wow, you mean like Tapes & CDs & VHS? Done.

I joined Amazon full-time soon thereafter. I would do a lot of building with you all – 3P marketplace, M&A and BusDev teams, A9, Advertising, Amazon Music, Prime Video, Amazon Studios. During my 22 years, I’d like to think I never stopped helping carry those heavier bags. The newer initiatives, the ones that took extra courage and long-term thinking by our team. And I hope that, on the margin, I pushed s-team and Amazon to be even more bold, see around corners, think big. With the core business in as strong a position as it’s ever been, I know that’s what customers will want from you over the next decade.

Terrific new s-team leaders have stepped into these big roles and are continuing to build and boldly invent. I admire and particularly commend your leadership for the past 11 months: watching the company execute during COVID has been astonishing – your teams deliver Amazon’s best when the best is most needed.

I want to thank you all for your friendship, teamwork, and support. What an amazing 22 years it has been together – I will cherish it, forever. I’m not retiring and will have news on what’s next for me soon.

Of course, today, I am formally giving up “jblack@”. I have just one request—that I forever stay “jblack” in the halls of Amazon. It’d be an honor,

-Jeff

It was a lucky day for us when you got assigned to that IPO roadshow. Watching you as that junior investment banker, it was easy to see your wicked smarts — fully on display. But who knew you’d be so driven by a relentless urge to invent and pioneer? From marketplace and advertising to the launch of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, you’ve been a builder. And you’ve helped all of us in everything — not just the things you directly led. You have judgment and your viewpoint is never redundant. When you talk, I find myself leaning in and listening carefully — always.

Thank you for more than two decades of leadership. For pushing us all to keep exploring. For carrying all of those bags.

Though it’s not quite ready to be shared, jblack has kept me in the loop on his next chapter, and I can assure you it’s a very exciting one! I predict that Jeff will be every bit as amazing in his new role as he’s been in all his roles at Amazon. Easy prediction. Big congrats to you, Jeff.

Your friend always,

Jeff

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 0
DISQUS: