Multiple news outlets including Bloomberg, Business Network CNBC and The Wall Street Journal are reporting this morning that Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business that includes Amazon.com will retire from the company.

Dave Clark, the online provider’s Senior Vice President of Operations that includes all customer fulfillment and worldwide logistics operations has been tapped to succeed Wilke.

Amazon Prime

This report is a rather big deal from the notions of its timing as well as is its significance.  The announcement also represents the second departure of high-level Amazon executive after develpment VP Tim Bray resigned in May.

As CNBC reported, Wilke who has been an Amazon employee since 1999 , was considered to be the number two executive and a likely successor to founder Jeff Bezos.

In an email to all Amazon employees, Bezos praised Wilke as being one of those people without whom Amazon would be completely unrecognizable. He further cited Wilke as his tutor, and that his legacy will live on long after his departure.

In a rather heartfelt and genuine communication to Amazon employees, Wilke indicated that heading into his 22nd holiday fulfillment season with the company would be his last:

COVID-19 has pulled me back to my roots in operations as I work with the teams building antigen testing capacity, which will deploy first to our front-line employees. I’m so proud of the dedication our people have shown as they pick, pack, ship, and deliver to hundreds of millions of customers around the world who depend on us.  These employees deserve every ounce of our attention to ensure their safety, which is why we’ve spent so much time and money to keep them healthy and safe.  This testing work is very much in the spirit of flannel and is the latest example of our commitment to the people in our fulfillment centers.”

Wilke’s communication goes on to indicate that he has no plans for additional jobs and that it was just time to leave and for him to explore personal interests that have taken a back seat for two decades. This letter is worth a read for its genuineness and sincerity and can be viewed within the CNBC report.

Both Wilke and Clark have been members of Amazon’s noted S-Team, a reported close-knit group of senior executives that manage and oversee all of Amazon’s efforts. In conjunction with the announcement of Wilke’s departure, Bezos announced three new members of this executive body, one of which is female. They include:

John Felton, Vice President of Global Delivery Services

Dave Treadwell, Vice President of E-Commerce Foundation that oversees core systems.

Alicia Boler Davis, Vice President of Global Customer Fulfillment

 

Additional Thoughts

Obviously, today’s announcement is incredibly significant for Amazon and for the B2C business landscape, one that business media will analyze for many weeks to come as to its implications related to ongoing leadership and succession planning of the company.

What struck this Editor was the respect that Wilke communicated for distribution operations and “shop floor” personnel. That seems to be counter to the reputation that the online provider has garnered as having a hard-driving, almost burnout corporate culture, along with demanding extremely high levels of efficiency and task expectations from employees, contractors and suppliers.

There will likely be more to this development in the weeks to come.

Bob Ferrari

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