Jeff Bezos’ exit is one of many among Amazon's top ranks as Andy Jassy takes over as CEO

When Andy Jassy is elevated to CEO of Amazon Monday, taking the reins from its founder, Jeff Bezos, it will be one of the most closely watched executive handoffs in years.

But a much less heralded — though still deeply meaningful — change has already been underway at the company. Dozens of executives in Amazon’s upper ranks have departed in the past 18 months, many after working there for over a decade.

It is an unusual level of disruption inside the business. The departing executives don’t represent a huge slice of the top ranks, with hundreds of vice presidents now. But for years, Amazon’s leaders were considered lifers. Many had been there since the company’s earliest days. They were loyal to Amazon, whose rising stock price often made them wealthy.

Bezos epitomized that relationship. So did Jeff Wilke, who led the global consumer business, and Steve Kessel, who ran its physical stores, and others who introduced and ran key programs, including Alexa, free delivery and large parts of its cloud business. Now those leaders are gone.

Amazon CEO Founder Jeff Bezos.

Having Wilke and Bezos leave so close together amounts to “epic, tectonic shifts,” said David Glick, a former Amazon vice president who is now the chief technology officer at Flexe, a logistics startup.

Wilke and Kessel retired, but many vice presidents are leaving for top jobs at public companies or high-growth startups. Teresa Carlson, who over a decade built Amazon’s government cloud business, in April became the chief growth officer of Splunk, which provides data software, and Greg Hart, who once shadowed Bezos for a year and then launched Alexa and Echo, is now the chief product officer at the real estate firm Compass. Maria Renz, another former Bezos shadow who started at Amazon in 1999, is now a senior executive at SoFi, a personal finance company.

In recent years, Bezos has stepped back from much of Amazon’s day-to-day business, focusing instead on strategic projects and outside ventures, like his space startup, Blue Origin, giving his deputies even more autonomy. On July 20, he is scheduled to fly aboard the first manned spaceflight of his rocket company.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Karen Weise [c.2021 The New York Times Company]

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