Dave Clark, the longtime head of Amazon's consumer division, departs

·4-min read

Amazon today announced that Dave Clark, CEO of the company's worldwide consumer division, will step down after 23 years in the position. In a note to leadership, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said that Clark's last day in the office will be July 1 -- a date corroborated by a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"[W]e still have more work in front of us to get to where we ultimately want to be in our consumer business. To that end, we’re trying to be thoughtful in our plans for Dave’s succession and any changes we make. I expect to be ready with an update for you over the next few weeks," Jassy wrote in the note, which was shared on the public About Amazon blog this morning. "While change is never easy, I’m optimistic about the plan that the consumer team has built and have confidence that if we stay focused on executing it, we’ll deliver the right experiences for customers and results for the business."

Clark joined Amazon's operations pathways program in May 1999 after graduating with an MBA from the University of Tennessee. He played an increasingly large role across the company, starting as an operations manager in Kentucky, growing to a general manger in the Northeast, stepping up to lead worldwide operations, and then eventually leading all of worldwide consumer. Clark was a major proponent of Amazon's $775 million acquisition of warehouse robot maker Kiva in 2012, and headed teams that designed several generations of fulfillment centers and built out Amazon’s transportation network, among other accomplishments.

It's unclear why Clark might've left so suddenly. In the blog post, Jassy claims that the decision was Clark's own and that Clark intends to "pursue other opportunities." Just two years earlier, Clark replaced Jeff Wilke as chief executive of Amazon's retail business, which encompasses the retail website, Amazon's physical stores, Amazon Prime and the growing logistics empire that stocks and deliver items.

"I am a builder at heart -- it's what drives me … As much as I have loved the ride, it is time for me to say goodbye to start a new journey," Clark said in an internal email that he also published to Twitter. "For some time, I have discussed my intent to transition out of Amazon with my family and others close to me, but I wanted to ensure the teams were setup [sic] for success. I feel confident that time is now."

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Perhaps telegraphing the resignation, Clark and his wife reportedly sold their home in Medina, a Seattle suburb, last fall ahead of a move to Dallas, Texas. Amazon is headquartered in Seattle.

Clark was celebrated within Amazon for dramatically expanding the company's retail operations during the pandemic, but his governance of the company's warehouses became the subject of media -- and regulatory -- scrutiny. Multiple outlets reported that Clark led Amazon's push to persuade the U.S. Postal Service to install a controversial temporary mailbox outside Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, during a union election in 2021. Clark also spearheaded the creation of an internal social media program that would let Amazon employees recognize co-workers' performance with "shout-outs" but which banned words like "union," "pay raise," "living wage," "grievance" and "diversity."

Clark has been unapologetic about his cavalier style, once telling Bloomberg that he favored "lurking in the shadows of … warehouses and scoping out slackers he could fire" during his early years at Amazon. And he's repeatedly sparred with opponents on Twitter, including comedian John Oliver and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Clark has made managerial missteps, too, in recent years, for example overexpanding Amazon's warehouse and labor capacity in the latter stretch of the pandemic -- outstripping consumer demand. (GeekWire points out that the company would have posted an operating loss of more than $2.8 billion in the first quarter if not for its profitable Amazon Web Services cloud unit.) On the retail side, Amazon recently shuttered its bookstores and other shops. And just this week, the company announced that it would shut down its Kindle bookstore in China, preventing customers in the country from purchasing new ebooks.

CNBC notes that Clark is among Amazon's highest-paid executives, with total compensation of $56 million last year -- almost all of it in the form of stock awards (his annual salary is just $175,000).

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