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Amazon exec Dave Clark ascends as Bezos lieutenant Jeff Wilke retires

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Amazon logistics boss Dave Clark is becoming CEO of the e-commerce giant’s retail business — a position held by Jeff Wilke, whose retirement comes as a surprise.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Amazon.com Inc. has named logistics boss Dave Clark chief executive of its retail business.

He’ll replace Jeff Wilke, a longtime lieutenant to company founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. Wilke plans to retire in the first quarter of 2021, the company announced in a securities filing.

Clark, who is 47, will run the Worldwide Consumer unit, a group that encompasses most of what shoppers know of Amazon, including the retail website and the growing logistics empire that stocks and delivers items.

A veteran Amazon executive, Clark joined Amazon out of business school. Shortly after he was named logistics chief in 2013, his first holiday shopping season was marred by weather disruptions and logistical bottlenecks. The incident helped persuade Amazon to proceed with a massive build-out of its capacity to move its own goods.

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The company went from dozens of warehouses to hundreds, backed up by long-haul trailers, tens of thousands of Amazon-branded delivery vans and an air cargo fleet — a logistics network that is now among the largest in the world. Clark recently added oversight of Amazon’s physical retail footprint, including Whole Foods Market stores.

He has emerged as one of Amazon’s highest-profile executives, taking to Twitter to post whimsical videos of delivery drivers dancing or to defend the company’s reputation from news stories critical of its practices.

Clark’s logistics group was hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which sent orders skyrocketing even as many employees stopped coming to work to shelter at home. The company added 175,000 workers to help meet demand, and for a time it prioritized restocking in-demand items, cutting out some smaller sellers who had come to depend on Amazon’s warehouse space. The company has faced criticism from employees who say Amazon hasn’t done enough to keep them safe during the pandemic.

Wilke, 53, was widely considered a potential successor to Bezos, so his pending retirement is a surprise to Amazon watchers. After helping build the logistics operation, Wilke in 2016 was elevated to CEO of the global consumer business. In a parallel move, Andy Jassy was named CEO of the Amazon Web Services cloud computing division, a structure that made both men natural candidates to succeed Bezos.

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In an email to employees, Bezos saluted Wilke and called him a tutor to him and everyone at the company. “Jeff has also set us up to succeed in his absence,” Bezos wrote. “I can’t think of someone more suited to step into Jeff’s role than Dave Clark.”

In the email, Bezos also announced three new members of the S-team, the group of roughly two dozen senior leaders who set corporate priorities alongside the CEO. They are Alicia Boler Davis, vice president of consumer fulfillment; John Felton, vice president of global delivery services; and Dave Treadwell, vice president of e-commerce services.


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