Amazon has tapped Dave Clark as chief of its retail business

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He has emerged as one of Amazon’s highest-profile executives.

Amazon.com Inc. has tapped Dave Clark as chief of its retail business.

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

Clark, a veteran Amazon executive, 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 the same year as Wilke. He was named logistics chief in 2013, and his first holiday shopping season was marred by weather disruptions and logistical bottlenecks that helped convince Amazon to proceed with a massive buildout of its capacity to move its own goods.

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 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 his Twitter to post whimsical videos like delivery drivers dancing, or to defend the company’s reputation from news stories critical of Amazon’s practices.

Wilke was widely considered a potential successor to Bezos, so his pending retirement is a surprise to Amazon watchers. Hailing from the Pittsburgh area, he joined Amazon in 1999 after stints at Andersen Consulting and AlliedSignal, and was instrumental in building out the logistics machine that would help Amazon make ever more aggressive promises to get shoppers their items quickly.

In 2016, Wilke was elevated to chief executive of the global consumer business. In a parallel move, Andy Jassy was named chief executive of the Amazon Web Services cloud computing division, a structure that made both men natural candidates to succeed Bezos were he to step down.

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.”

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