Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke is planning to retire from Amazon in the first quarter of next year, according to internal memos posted to the company’s corporate blog.
Widely seen as a possible successor to founder Jeff Bezos as CEO before the announcement, Wilke has spent more than two decades at the e-commerce giant, according to the notice from Bezos.
He will be replaced by Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations.
The COVID-19 has accelerated a growth of e-commerce that should logically benefit Amazon above all other retailers, and Amazon has indeed cleaned up recent months as more people bought online. Product sales in the second quarter rose to $50.2 billion from $35.9 billion a year ago, and the stay-at-home nature of the pandemic period helped fuel new Prime membership signups in the period.
But the e-commerce giant hasn't been immune to the operational disruptions that have also been a feature of the disease outbreak, and customers have had to put up with unusual delays. It's a rare vulnerability for a company used to setting the standard in shopping convenience, including speedy delivery. Amazon itself earlier this year pumped the brakes on certain categories flowing to its distribution network, and has postponed its Prime Day sale, normally held in July. Furthermore, the operational challenges come as Walmart, Kroger and Shopify have taken steps to grab the attention of online shoppers.
CFO Brian Olsavsky couldn't say when Amazon would resume its effort to speed up its two-day Prime delivery, which itself has been uncharacteristically slower on some items, to a single day. Still, he doubled down on the effort, which was first announced about a year ago, and said the company is expanding its fulfillment capacity. That could be one reason why Clark and his operational prowess are seen as key to Amazon's retail business.
In his goodbye memo, Wilke detailed Clark's operational successes.
"He's the Big Thinking energy behind the scale of Amazon Robotics, our Prime Air fleet, and AMZL deliveries," Wilke wrote. "In the last two years, we moved Prime, Marketing, and the Stores organizations to Dave, giving him a chance to broaden his leadership beyond operations. Dave is now ready to lead WW Consumer, and I’ll be proud to turn it over to him early next year."
Bezos and Wilke also noted other additions to the top "S" executive team: Alicia Boler Davis, John Felton and Dave Treadwell.