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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Internal memo: Longtime Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn returns after brief hiatus to lead new entertainment unit

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

Blackburn’s back.

Longtime Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn is returning to the Seattle tech giant, just a few months after he departed and spent five weeks at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Incoming Amazon CEO Andy Jassy — who will replace Jeff Bezos later this year — shared the news Thursday in an email sent to the company’s senior leadership team and obtained by GeekWire.

Blackburn, a 22-year Amazon vet who was one of Bezos’ top lieutenants, will lead a new “Global Media & Entertainment” organization that will include Prime Video and Amazon Studios, Music, Podcasts/Wondery, Audible, Games, and Twitch. He starts June 7.

“Jblack’s interest in returning to Amazon presented us with a good opportunity to combine our entertainment businesses in a single org under a leader who knows them well,” Jassy wrote in the email (read in full below). “Often, the best time to make org changes is when things are going well. Fortunately, each of these businesses is on a very positive path.”

“We believe that bringing them together will help us innovate for creators even more quickly, coherently, and across multiple mediums,” Jassy added.

Blackburn will report to Bezos, and then to Jassy when Bezos steps down as CEO and becomes executive chairman.

Blackburn, 51, announced his retirement from Amazon in February. He then landed a gig at storied venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners. It was a short stint.

“We understand his desire to return to an operating role and wish him the best of luck,” a Bessemer spokesperson said last week. Blackburn transitioned to a new advisory role as a special limited partner at Bessemer.

In a company memo shared when Blackburn left Amazon in February, Bezos 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. Easy prediction.”

Blackburn, who attended Dartmouth and Stanford, took a year-long sabbatical starting in 2020. 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.

Mike Hopkins, SVP of Amazon Video and Studios and a member of Amazon’s senior leadership team, will report to Blackburn.

Read the full memo below.

I wanted to share the good news that Jeff Blackburn has decided to return to Amazon as SVP of a new Global Media & Entertainment organization that will include Prime Video and Amazon Studios, Music, Podcasts/Wondery, Audible, Games, and Twitch.

Many of you know Jblack from his previous time with the company. He joined Amazon in 1998 after helping guide the company through its IPO at Deutsche Bank. He did a lot of building over two-plus decades, including our 3P marketplace, Advertising, Amazon Studios/Prime Video, Music, A9/Search, and our Corp Dev org (M&A and BizDev teams).

Jblack’s interest in returning to Amazon presented us with a good opportunity to combine our entertainment businesses in a single org under a leader who knows them well. Often, the best time to make org changes is when things are going well. Fortunately, each of these businesses is on a very positive path—Amazon Studios was recently nominated for 12 Oscars (and won 2 of them!), Prime Video has had 175 million prime members stream shows and movies in the past year and just won the rights to be the exclusive home of NFL Thursday Night Football starting in 2022. Twitch has grown dramatically over the past 15 months and our Games Studio is launching its highly-anticipated game, “New World,” this summer. Music continues to grow quickly and has launched Podcasts now in 10 countries, and Audible Original, “The Sandman,” became the bestselling original in Audible’s history (with a second installment later this year)—these are just a few of the many successes and milestones for these businesses. We believe that bringing them together will help us innovate for creators even more quickly, coherently, and across multiple mediums.

Jblack will report to Jeff B until the transition in Q3, and then he’ll report to me. Mike Hopkins, Steve Boom, Don Katz, Mike Frazzini, and Emmett Shear will report into Jblack when he starts on June 7th.

Please feel free to share the news with your teams as you wish.

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