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Amazon’s Media Chief Jeff Blackburn to Retire in Division Shakeup

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s top media executive, Jeff Blackburn, plans to retire at the start of 2023, and the division will be overseen by two current executives who will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy.

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Mike Hopkins, who is now in charge of Prime Video, Amazon Studios and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will continue in his current role. Steve Boom, who leads music and podcasting, will also take command of Audible, Twitch and the games business. The transition will be effective Jan. 1, Amazon said in a memo to staff on Friday.

Blackburn oversaw high-profile changes at Amazon, helping lead the company into streaming and integrate the storied Hollywood movie studio MGM, which the company acquired for $8.5 billion in the midst of the pandemic. He also took an expensive bet to attract younger customers to Prime Video with the Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series that aired this year and cost an estimated $1 billion.

“The last 18 months have been a thrill,” Blackburn wrote in an email to staff. “But I’ve decided to spend 2023 differently, giving more time to family, and feel strongly this is the right decision for me.”

Amazon has been in cost-cutting mode due to a sales slowdown. Bloomberg has reported that the company plans about 10,000 job cuts that have already started and will continue into 2023. Investors have been trying to determine which Amazon business units will be prioritized for investments and which will be trimmed. Amazon executives have said they remain committed to video streaming as a way to increase the value of Prime membership and attract new customers.

Blackburn has a long history at Amazon. He joined the company in 1998, a year after its IPO. He worked across different business units, including its third-party marketplace and advertising divisions. He left the company to join a Silicon Valley venture firm Bessemer Venture Partners, working there only five weeks before his May 2021 return.

Analysts have described Blackburn as a seasoned veteran trusted by founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos and Jassy. The media chief had to navigate a brutally competitive streaming business and the collapse of the theatrical business in 2020, when the pandemic paused in-person gathering. The company has spent big to build both units, and venture into other areas.

It has acquired the rights to live sports programs, including the National Football League’s Thursday games. Amazon also plans to spend $1 billion to produce 12 to 15 movies a year that will first appear exclusively in theaters, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Blackburn joins other long-time Amazon executives to depart following Bezos’s departure as CEO last year, which triggered big shifts in the company’s executive ranks. Amazon’s consumer chief Dave Clark, a long-time executive, left Amazon in June. Clark’s predecessor, Jeff Wilke, announced his retirement from Amazon a few months before Jassy was named to the CEO job. Wilke had been seen as another contender to succeed Bezos.

--With assistance from Matt Day.

(Updates with details on transition starting in second paragraph.)

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