Jeff Blackburn, an influential Amazon executive and one of the longest-running members of Jeff Bezos’ senior leadership team, will take a one-year sabbatical in 2020, GeekWire has learned.
Blackburn helped guide the company through its 1997 IPO as a banker and joined Amazon one year later, eventually landing on Bezos’ “S-Team” in 2006. His current title is senior vice president of worldwide business development, overseeing an array of the tech giant’s businesses.
“It’s never easy to find a good time for a break when always scaling so fast, but now feels like the right time for me and my family,” Blackburn wrote in an internal email obtained by GeekWire. He’s pictured below with Bezos and actress Michelle Williams at a 2016 ‘Manchester at the Sea‘ party.
Here’s a statement from an Amazon spokesperson:
“Jeff Blackburn has decided to take a one year sabbatical with his wife and extended family following more than 21 years at Amazon, leading everything from our third party business, to Prime Video, Amazon Studios, Amazon Music, and Amazon Advertising. Jeff’s sabbatical will begin in early 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back in 2021.”
Other members of Amazon’s senior leadership team include AWS CEO Andy Jassy; CEO of Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke; and others.
Here’s Blackburn’s email to internal staff:
Hi, wanted to share with you all that I’m planning to take a year-long sabbatical – to spend more time with my wife and family – starting in early 2020.
I’ve been pretty nonstop at Amazon for 21+ years now – from the time we were only selling books. Physical books! I’ve had roles growing our third party selling Marketplace, Retail Hardlines, Operations, Corporate Development, Business Development and Advertising teams and spent the last 7 years helping build Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Studios and Amazon Music – an incredible experience. It’s never easy to find a good time for a break when always scaling so fast, but now feels like the right time for me and my family.
In Biz Dev, Advertising and Entertainment, we have such a strong leadership team in place – and tremendous momentum right now. I’m confident this team will continue to deliver amazing content, products, and experiences for customers. I’ve been working closely with JeffB and S-team on this transition and I won’t be going on leave until early next year. So it’s absolutely business as usual for now. I’m looking forward to working with you as we review OP1 plans this fall, and will share with you any organizational changes as we know them.
Thanks to my leadership team for their incredible support – and to all of you across our businesses helping to deliver for customers every day. This is an “A+” team of people and am very proud to be part of it.
Other longtime Amazon execs that went on sabbaticals include early Kindle leader Steve Kessel, who returned to head up the company’s physical retail efforts, and Diego Piacentini, who went to work in Rome for the Italian prime minister but did not return to Amazon as planned.
Update: Amazon’s board approved a leave of absence for Blackburn on Thursday for one year beginning in the first quarter of 2020.