“Intel, Microsoft, Oracle — you see this pattern,” he said.
Even before a founder leaves, executives sense a business is approaching a new era, he said.
“People get the idea that Jeff is going to be transitioning, and that leads people to start thinking about other options,” he said, adding that as companies get large, executives can often find less bureaucracy and more financial upside if they leave.
“We’ve had and continue to have remarkable retention and continuity of leadership at the company,” said Chris Oster, an Amazon spokesman. The average tenure is 10 years for vice presidents and more than 17 for senior vice presidents, he added.
Mr. Bezos long played up the longevity of deputies. At a forum in 2017, an employee asked him about the lack of diversity on his senior team, known as the S-Team, which was almost exclusively white and male, and Mr. Bezos said it was a benefit that his top deputies had been by his side for years.
Any transition on the team, he said, would “happen very incrementally over a long period of time.”
In recent years, Mr. Bezos has stepped back from much of Amazon’s day-to-day business, focusing instead on strategic projects and outside ventures, like his space start-up, Blue Origin, giving his deputies even more autonomy.
Mr. Bezos, 57, re-engaged on day-to-day matters early in the pandemic. But in February, he announced that he planned to step down from running Amazon and would become executive chairman of the company’s board. On July 20, he is scheduled to fly aboard the first manned spaceflight of his rocket company.
Mr. Bezos’ handoff came not long after Mr. Wilke, long seen as a potential successor, announced his departure.