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August 21, 2020 12:45 PM, EDT

Amazon Names Logistics Head Dave Clark New Consumer CEO

Dave Clark will take over for Jeff Wilke as Amazon's retail CEO.Dave Clark, pictured here in front of a Prime delivery van in June 2018, will take over for Jeff Wilke as Amazon's retail CEO. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

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

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

Clark, 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.

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

RELATED: Dave Clark: The Man Who Built Amazon's Delivery Machine

The company went from dozens of warehouses to hundreds, backed up by longhaul trailers, tens of thousands of Amazon-branded delivery vans and an air-cargo fleet — a logistics empire 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 Amazon’s practices.

Clark’s logistics group was hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, which sent orders skyrocketing even as many employees stopped coming to work to shelter at home. The company hired 175,000 staffers to help meet demand, and for a time prioritized restocking in-demand items, cutting out some smaller sellers who had come to depend upon 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.

Jeff Wilke's retirement announcement came as a surprise to many Amazon watcher.

Jeff Wilke's retirement announcement came as a shock to many Amazon watchers. (Martina Albertazzi/Bloomberg News)

Surprise Retirement

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 chief executive 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. Wilke has been splitting his time between Seattle and Los Angeles for the past few years, according to a person familiar with his situation.

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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