Jeff Bezos’ wingman is planning to quit next year.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Jeff Wilke, the 53-year-old confidant of the Amazon founder, told staff in a memo Friday (Aug. 21) he will retire in the first quarter of 2021. His replacement as CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business will be David Clark, now senior vice president of worldwide operations.
“Why leave? It’s just time,” Wilke wrote. “Time for me to take time to explore personal interests that have taken a back seat for over two decades.”
With Wilke gone, Andrew Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, will be the longest serving lieutenant to Bezos, the WSJ reported.
“Jeff’s legacy and impact will live on long after he departs,” Bezos wrote in a separate note to staff Friday. “He is simply one of those people without whom Amazon would be completely unrecognizable.”
On the job for more than two decades, Wilke was considered Bezos’s replacement if the Amazon founder retired. Wilke said in his note he does not have a job lined up and for now will focus on managing Amazon through the busy holiday season.
He had been a top executive at AlliedSignal, which is now Honeywell International Inc., the North Carolina-based technology and manufacturing company.
At the time Wilke started in 1999, the fulfillment division he managed was such a small operation that senior Amazon executives, including him, were required to help ship packages during the Christmas holiday season, the newspaper reported.
Today, Amazon has a workforce of more than 1 million.
“Our main purpose was to ensure we shipped all customer orders in time for the holiday, Wilke told the WSJ. “We got to see how the physical operations connected to our digital store, and I got to personally inspect our safety culture.”
In May, Patrick Gauthier, Amazon vice president, told PYMNTS the eCommerce giant can count itself lucky when it comes to weathering the COVID-19 storm. But Amazon also feels a responsibility to assist the recovery of the hard-hit retail ecosystem and merchants, he said, not all of whom have weathered the economic storm nearly so smoothly.
“Being agile and customer-centric and solution-driven, we think we have an important role to play, to help at the Amazon level,” Gauthier said.
Last month, Amazon celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Also in July, Bezos was one of four CEOs to testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
He told lawmakers about his parents’ investment in Amazon despite not knowing what the internet was, and the “trust” Americans have in Amazon.
“We need American workers to get products to American customers,” he said.