Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith resigns, replaced by outgoing Amazon executive Dave Limp


Bob Smith, (left), chief executive officer of Blue Origin LLC, and Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services for Amazon.com Inc.

getty images

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith will be replaced by outgoing Amazon executive Dave Limp, CNBC has learned.

Smith is retiring effective Dec. 4 and will remain with the company until Jan. 2 pending the CEO transition, according to notes written by Smith and Bezos to Blue Origin staff obtained by CNBC.

Limp joins Blue Origin at a critical stage of the company’s many space projects. Blue needs to ramp up production of its BE-4 rocket engines, get its space tourism rocket New Shepard back on flight, and launch its next-generation New Glenn rocket for the first time — as well as its recently won There is also a need to fulfill the NASA contract. Crewed lunar lander.

In a statement to CNBC, a Blue Origin spokesperson praised Limp as “a proven innovator with a customer-first mindset” who has “extensive experience in the high-tech industry and growing highly complex organizations.”

Amazon announced last month that Limp would step down at the end of the year. As Amazon’s head of devices and services, Limp oversaw Amazon’s Alexa, Echo and Ring units, as well as some of its more experimental divisions such as Zoox autonomous vehicles and the Project Kuiper internet satellite business.

Dave Limp, senior vice president, Devices & Services, speaks at Amazon’s Headquarters 2 in Crystal City, Virginia, on September 20, 2023.

Eric Lee | Washington Post | getty images

Limp’s resignation came as a shock, as he spent more than 13 years at Amazon. He became CEO Andy Jassy’s top lieutenant and a member of Amazon’s prestigious S-Team, a tight-knit group of senior executives across nearly all of its businesses.

Additionally, Limp and Bezos worked closely together when the Amazon founder was still CEO. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and the Echo smart speaker were pet projects of Bezos, and Limp led both high-profile launches.

Amazon has not yet announced Limp’s replacement, but Bloomberg and other outlets have reported that the company is expected to hire Microsoft product chief Panos Panay.

Read Bezos’ message to Blue Origin employees on Monday:

I am pleased to announce that Dave Limp will join Blue as CEO effective December 4th, replacing Bob, who has decided to step down on January 2nd. The overlap is purposeful to ensure a smooth transition.

Before I give some background on Dave, I’d like to take time to recognize Bob and the significant growth and change we have experienced during his tenure. Under Bob’s leadership, Blue’s sales orders have grown to several billion dollars, with a substantial backlog for our vehicles and engines. Our team has grown from 850 people when Bob joined to more than 10,000 today. We have expanded from an office in Kent to a launch pad in LC-36 and five million square feet of facilities in seven states.

Our missions have also grown – we’ve flown 31 people above the Kármán Line, which is about five percent of all people who have flown into space. Flight-qualified BE-4 engines are ready to launch the Vulcan into orbit. New Glenn is scheduled to launch next year, and, with our recent NASA contract, we will bring Americans back to the Moon to live this time. We have also engaged and inspired millions of children and teachers through our Club for the Future efforts. We have made tremendous progress in building a road to space for the benefit of Earth, thanks to all of you and Bob’s leadership.

I have worked closely with Dave for many years. He is the right leader at the right time for the Blues. Dave joins us after nearly 14 years at Amazon, where he most recently served as Senior Vice President of Amazon Devices and Services, leading Kuiper, Kindle, Alexa, Zoox, and many other businesses. Before Amazon, Dave had roles at other high-tech companies, including Palm and Apple. Dave is a proven innovator with a customer-first mindset and extensive experience leading and scaling large, complex organizations. Dave has an excellent sense of urgency, he brings energy to everything he does and helps teams move much faster.

Please join me in welcoming Dave and thanking Bob. Through this transition, I know we will remain focused on our customer commitments, production schedules and execution with speed and operational excellence. I look forward to many exciting and historic milestones ahead!

Jeff

Read Smith’s message to Blue Origin employees:

team blue,

It’s been almost six years since I joined Blue Origin. During that time, our team, facilities, and sales orders have grown dramatically, and we have made significant contributions to the history of space flight.
With pride and satisfaction in what we have achieved, I am announcing that effective December 4, I will step down as Chief Executive Officer of Blue Origin. I will remain with Blue until January 2 to ensure a smooth transition with the new CEO.

It is a privilege to be part of this great team, and I am confident that Blue Origin’s greatest achievements are still ahead of us. We have rapidly grown this company from its prototyping and research roots to a large, leading space business. We have the right strategy. An extremely talented team, a strong customer base and some of the most technically ambitious and exciting projects in the entire industry. We also have a team that cares deeply about our mission, legacy and how we contribute to the next generation and bring a brighter future for everyone.

Jeff and I have been discussing our plan for months, and Jeff will announce Blue’s new CEO in a separate note soon. I am very excited about the culture of operational excellence and innovation this new leader will bring to Blue. We are building on the foundation we have built over the last few years.

I am committed to making sure this transition is flawless, and everyone should know I will always be on Team Blue.

Gradatim ferrociter.

bob smith

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Dave Limp’s position at Amazon.

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