Just weeks after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced that he will step down as CEO by autumn, another top Amazon executive has bowed out of the company.
Jeff Blackburn, former senior vice president of business and corporate development, who has been on a sabbatical since early 2020, announced his formal resignation from Amazon in an internal memo Tuesday.
In his 22 years at Amazon, Blackburn rose to become a top deputy to Bezos. Before he left on sabbatical, Blackburn — or “jblack,” as he’s known around the company — was mooted as a possible Bezos successor, along with longtime head of retail Jeff Wilke, who announced last year that he will leave Amazon by the end of March.
In his resignation memo, first published by GeekWire, Blackburn riffed on the coincidence, long a source of amusement, that Amazon’s executive team is well-stocked with people named Jeff, including Bezos, Blackburn, Wilke and, for a time, Jeff Holden, who ran Amazon’s search division.
“The ‘too many Jeff’s’ bug that’s been bothering many of you for two decades has been fixed!” he wrote. “Wilke’s retirement meant one less Jeff, and today, I’m taking it down to just the original.”
Blackburn, who in his two decades at Amazon headed key business areas including third-party sales, Prime Video, music and advertising, hinted that he had accepted a new role outside the company. “I’m not retiring and will have news on what’s next for me soon,” he wrote.
“I predict that Jeff will be every bit as amazing in his new role as he’s been in all his roles at Amazon,” Bezos wrote in another internal memo thanking Blackburn for his decades of work. “Easy prediction.”
Blackburn joined Amazon in 1998, after being assigned to help the company draft its IPO prospectus while working as a junior investment banker at Deutsche Bank.
“In early 1998, I was told by the legendary CFO Joy Covey, that the website might become more than books,” he wrote in his farewell memo. “‘You need to just come up here now, trust me.’ Wow, you mean like Tapes & CDs & VHS? Done.”
Blackburn’s resignation is the latest in a string of executive shakeups at Amazon resulting in a changing of the guard at the highest levels of the company.
Earlier this month, Bezos announced that he will step down as CEO by the end of September. Amazon Web Services head Andy Jassy will replace Bezos in that role; Bezos will remain chair of Amazon’s board of directors.
Longtime Bezos protégé Steven Kessel, who headed Amazon’s growing portfolio of physical stores, left the company in early 2020, followed in October by the news that Wilke would be replaced by Dave Clark as worldwide consumer CEO.