Bob Smith resigns as CEO of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin

Bob Smith, chief government of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, introduced to employees in an e mail Monday that he was resigning, six years after he was employed to guide the house firm.

He might be changed by Dave Limp, a senior government at Amazon, the corporate mentioned.

Within the e mail, a replica of which was obtained by The Washington Publish, Smith mentioned that in his tenure, “our workforce, amenities, gross sales orders have grown dramatically, and we’ve made important contributions to the historical past of spaceflight.”

The corporate, which has been largely personally funded by Bezos since he based it in a Seattle warehouse in 2000, not too long ago received a major NASA contract to develop a spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon.

However the firm additionally has lagged behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Its much-delayed New Glenn rocket has not but flown to orbit. And whereas the corporate has flown numerous non-public residents, together with Bezos and his brother Mark, on brief suborbital journeys to the sting of house, the corporate’s house tourism program has been grounded for greater than a 12 months after a mishap during a mission with out folks on board.

Smith got here to Blue Origin from Honeywell Aerospace with the mandate to rework the corporate from what had largely been a analysis and improvement enterprise right into a revenue-generating, operational agency that may compete for and win authorities contracts.

Underneath his management, the corporate grew enormously, and rapidly — increasing its headquarters in Kent, simply south of Seattle, and opening an engine manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Ala., in addition to an infinite manufacturing facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In an e mail to employees that was obtained by The Publish, Bezos famous “the numerous progress and transformation we’ve skilled throughout his tenure.” Bezos wrote that Blue “has grown to a number of billion {dollars} in gross sales orders,” in addition to from 850 folks when Smith joined to greater than 10,000 immediately. (Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Publish. Interim CEO Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)

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However Smith’s tenure was additionally marked by tension and tumult. In 2021, The Publish chronicled the issues at Blue Origin in an investigation that discovered that in 2019 it fired its head of recruiting after staff complained of sexism.

A guide retained by the corporate additionally discovered that Smith had an ineffective and micromanaging management type. Workers complained of a toxic work environment. And one mentioned in a letter to Bezos, Smith and different high leaders that, “Our present tradition is poisonous to our success and plenty of can see it spreading all through the corporate.”

The issues on the spaceflight firm had been “systemic,” in accordance with the letter, which was obtained by The Publish and verified by two former staff acquainted with the matter. “The lack of belief in Blue’s management is widespread,” the letter mentioned.

“It’s unhealthy,” one former high government advised The Publish on the time. “I believe it’s a whole lack of belief. Management has not engendered any belief within the worker base.”

One other mentioned: “The C-suite is out of contact with the rank-and-file fairly severely. It’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what occurs is we are able to’t make progress and find yourself with big delays.”

The report adopted an essay posted publicly by Alexandra Abrams, the previous head of Blue Origin worker communications, who wrote that the corporate’s “tradition sits on a basis that ignores the plight of our planet, turns a blind eye to sexism, shouldn’t be sufficiently attuned to security issues, and silences those that search to right wrongs.” The essay was posted to the whistleblowing web site Lioness, which publishes stories of office misconduct and locations them with media shops.

Bezos has mentioned that Blue Origin “is a very powerful work I’m doing,” and that he was investing $1 billion a 12 months into the enterprise. Amazon, he has mentioned, was the “profitable lottery ticket” that gave him the assets to begin an area firm and maintain funding it. Area is his lifelong ardour. However regardless of the big capital Bezos has invested in Blue Origin, the corporate has frequently lagged behind SpaceX, which holds contracts to fly cargo and crew to the Worldwide Area Station and hoist satellites for the Pentagon.

SpaceX additionally beat out Blue Origin to win the primary contract to develop the spacecraft that may return NASA astronauts to the floor of the moon. On the time, Musk advised The Publish that Bezos “must run BO full-time for it to achieve success. Frankly, I hope he does.”

In his e mail, Smith mentioned that he would “step apart” on Dec. 4, however stay with the corporate till Jan. 2.

Limp is taking up at a vital time for Blue Origin. The corporate’s massive New Glenn rocket, which is for use to launch satellites and finally folks to orbit, has lengthy been delayed. However in his e mail, Bezos mentioned it “is nearing launch subsequent 12 months.” The corporate additionally holds a NASA contract, with associate Sierra Area, to construct a business house station in low Earth orbit.

A lot of the corporate’s efforts are targeted on Bezos’s ardour: the moon. After dropping to SpaceX in 2021, Blue Origin received a $3.4 billion contract from NASA earlier this 12 months to construct a lander that might put people on the moon later within the decade. It additionally received a $34.7 million NASA contract to build solar cells and transmission wire out of the moon’s regolith — rocks and dust.

At Amazon, Limp serves as senior vice chairman for units and providers, the place he has led packages reminiscent of Kindle and Alexa Hearth TV. He additionally has run its Kuiper web satellite tv for pc enterprise, which intends to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink service. The corporate is hoping to launch its first satellites later this 12 months.

That’s one other space the place SpaceX has dominated. Whereas Kuiper is ready for its first batch of satellites to go up, and for the New Glenn rocket to start flying, SpaceX has launched almost 5,000 Starlink satellites. The corporate not too long ago mentioned the service is offered on “all 7 continents, in over 60 international locations” and has greater than 2 million clients.


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