Amazon has lost the executive who invented the Kindle, along with another leader who oversaw Alexa gadgets, adding to the growing slate of executive departures under new CEO Andy Jassy.
Gregg Zehr told employees August 11 that he would be retiring, according to people familiar with the move. Tom Taylor, SVP of Alexa, announced his retirement the same day.
Zehr is credited with the invention of the Kindle, Amazon’s blockbuster ebook reading device. He is also considered the de facto founder of Lab126, a secretive hardware group that created other gadgets such as the Echo range of speakers. He spent his entire 18-year Amazon career at the hardware development unit. He was most recently in charge of launching the Astro home robot.
Taylor, who was part of the senior “S-team” executive group, first joined Amazon in 2000 and previously worked on the payments and fulfillment sides before running Alexa voice-assistant technology.
Taylor and Zehr are the latest high-profile executives to leave Amazon. Roughly 90 VPs or higher-level executives have left since Amazon announced Jeff Bezos would be replaced by Jassy as the company’s CEO in January 2021, based on Insider’s analysis of leadership changes.
Many of them have left to pursue other opportunities at smaller startups or a competitor, while some of them, like Taylor and Zehr, simply retired. Still, it’s highly unusual for Amazon to lose so many long-time executives at the same time, as the company was known for retaining its most senior leaders for years, if not decades.
Zehr and Taylor’s departures leave a big leadership hole at Amazon’s personal devices business. While both the Echo and Alexa have become mainstream hits, there have been internal grumblings over the long-term growth potential and financial viability of those devices lately, according to people familiar with the team. Amazon has also been in belt-tightening mode, shuttering a number of projects in the past few months.
In an email to Insider, Amazon’s spokesperson confirmed their departures, saying both of their positions have been backfilled with “strong internal leaders” and the company has “remarkable retention and continuity of leadership.” The devices organization remains a “huge area of investment” for Amazon and Alexa remains “as strong as ever with incredible momentum in its adoption,” the spokesperson added.
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