Dave Clark, an Amazon veteran of more than 23 years, and the CEO of the company’s worldwide consumer business for the past 18 months, could have been referring to more than the Auburn University Class of 2022 when he delivered this line as the commencement speaker at his alma mater in early May.
“So many great things have been created through heat and pressure, and times like today spawn innovation and opportunity for those with the courage and audacity to take on new challenges,” he said.
Less than a month later, amid its own period of intense heat and pressure, Amazon announced Friday that Clark would be pursuing his new challenges elsewhere as of July 1, with no immediate successor named.
It’s the latest stage in a major shakeup of Amazon’s executive leadership, and a chance for Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to put more of his stamp on the company by anointing the next leader of Amazon’s biggest business.
Less than two years ago, Amazon’s CEO was its founder, Jeff Bezos, with Jassy as Amazon Web Services CEO, and Jeff Wilke as Amazon Consumer CEO, backed by a bench of experienced executives including Clark as head of worldwide operations, and longtime executive Charlie Bell reporting to Jassy in the cloud division.
With Bezos now in the role of executive chairman, Jassy is Amazon CEO with a consumer leader to be named later. Wilke left in early 2021; Bell went to Microsoft later in the year; and Clark’s departure is especially significant given that there’s no obvious successor to lead the centerpiece of the company’s business.
The changes at the top are part of a larger series of exits among Amazon’s senior leaders, as documented by reporters for Insider in a series of stories in recent months.
Clark has five direct reports on the company’s leadership team:
- Alicia Boler Davis, SVP, Global Customer Fulfillment
- John Felton, SVP, Global Delivery Services
- Doug Herrington, SVP, North America Consumer
- Russ Grandinetti, SVP, International Consumer
- Dave Treadwell, SVP, eCommerce Foundation
As noted by The Information in its analysis of potential successors, the company could also bring back a former executive, as it did with the choice of Adam Selipsky to succeed Jassy as AWS CEO. The Information cites Diego Piacentini, former senior vice president of Amazon’s international consumer business, as one possibility.
Whoever gets the job will face no shortage of challenges.
The new Amazon Consumer CEO will be charged with restoring Amazon’s core consumer business to profitability while grappling with a financial and operational hangover from the pandemic, and facing a growing union movement amid heightened scrutiny of Amazon’s treatment of workers.
Those were among the factors leading to Clark’s exit, according to current and past executives cited by Insider in its reporting on the news. Citing two Amazon insiders, the report says Clark “has had a tense working relationship with Jassy, who is known as a micro-manager.”
Amazon has “more work in front of us to get to where we ultimately want to be in our Consumer business,” Jassy wrote in a memo to employees announcing Clark’s departure. “To that end, we’re trying to be thoughtful in our plans for Dave’s succession and any changes we make.”
Jassy added that he’ll have an update “over the next few weeks.”
Clark hasn’t announced what he’ll do next.
“We have a great leadership team across the Consumer business that is ready to take on more as the company evolves past the customer experience challenges we took on during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clark wrote in his memo. “We also have a solid multi-year plan to fight the inflationary challenges we are facing in 2022.”
Clark added, “I leave knowing that the leaders in the Consumer business are world class and will take the next phase of Amazon to remarkable levels of success.”