Blackburn, most recently Amazon’s senior VP of business development, took a one-year sabbatical in 2020; the role he would play at the company on his return was unclear. Amazon appointed Mike Hopkins senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios a year ago, reporting directly to CEO Jeff Bezos.
Blackburn’s official departure from Amazon comes after Bezos announced this month that he’s stepping out of the CEO role in the third quarter of 2021 but staying with the company as executive chairman. Andy Jassy, currently CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS), is set to become CEO.
An Amazon rep confirmed Blackburn’s exit, which was announced Tuesday internally at the company. The news was first reported by GeekWire.
Bezos, in a note to Amazon’s Senior Leadership Team (S-team) that was shared with employees, praised Blackburn’s contributions to the company.
“From marketplace and advertising to the launch of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, you’ve been a builder,” Bezos wrote. “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.”
In a farewell note to S-team members, Blackburn wrote, “I’m not retiring and will have news on what’s next for me soon.” Bezos wrote, “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.”
[UPDATE, 2/25: Bessemer Venture Partners announced Thursday that Blackburn is joining the venture-capital firm as an investment partner and also said it closed two new tech-investment funds totaling $3.3 billion.]
In separate high-level departure, Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer CEO, is set to leave the company at the end of March. He’s to be replaced by Dave Clark, SVP of worldwide operations. Both Blackburn and Wilke were widely seen as potential successors to Bezos in the CEO seat.
Blackburn joined Amazon in March 1998. His work at the company has spanned numerous projects, including the company’s third-party marketplace to business development and advertising. Over the last several years, he focused on Amazon’s media business, including Prime Video, Amazon Studios, IMDb and Amazon Music.
Blackburn, part of the S-team since 2006, also served as the head of Amazon’s M&A, investments and strategic business development efforts worldwide. In late 1996, as a junior investment banker at Deutsche Bank, he worked on the IPO for Amazon. He was recruited to work at Amazon by the late CFO Joy Covey.
Covey told him “that the website might become more than books… ‘you need to just come up here now, trust me,’” Blackburn recalled in his note. “Wow, you mean like Tapes & CDs & VHS? Done.”
Pictured above: Jeff Blackburn (r.) and Jeff Bezos at the 89th Annual Academy Awards in 2017