Longtime Amazon executive Jeff Wilke to retire next year

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Photo credit This June 2019 photo shows Jeff Wilke at an Amazon conference in Las Vegas. Amazon says executive Wilke, who oversees the company’s retail business, will retire early in 2021. He will be replaced by Dave Clark, who runs Amazon's warehouses and delivery network. Wilke has been at Amazon for more than two decades. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon retail chief Jeff Wilke, who has helped Amazon transform itself from an online bookstore into a global colossus, is retiring early next year.

Wilke, 53, has been with Amazon for more than two decades and was regarded as a potential successor to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. His oversight at Amazon grew along with the company, running not just Amazon.com, but the Whole Foods grocery chain and its physical book stores.

Wilke is referred to within Amazon as “The other Jeff” to differentiate him from Bezos. The two have worked closely together since Wilke joined the company in 1999, four years after Amazon.com started selling books online.

Wilke will be replaced by Dave Clark, who runs the Amazon's warehouses and delivery network, the Seattle-based company said Friday.

In an email to staff, Wilke said that he doesn't have another job lined up.

"So why leave? It’s just time," he wrote in the email. “Time for me to take time to explore personal interests that have taken a back seat for over two decades.”

Wilke said he will focus on running the company through the holiday season, which is shaping up to be the busiest one yet for Amazon. Sales have skyrocketed as online sales boom during the pandemic.

“He is simply one of those people without whom Amazon would be completely unrecognizable,” Bezos wrote in a memo to staff. “Thank you, Jeff, for your contributions and your friendship.”