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News

Clark, builder of Amazon’s shipping network, gets promotion

47-year-old lifer to become CEO of company’s Worldwide Consumer unit

Dave Clark, the driving force behind Amazon.com. Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) transformation from a buying portal to one of the world’s leading shipping and logistics firms, will have a new job with the company by early next year. But he’s not leaving his logistics duties all that far behind.

Sometime during the first quarter, Clark, 47, will become CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer unit, which includes the ubiquitous retail platform and the transport and logistics operations that support it. Clark will succeed Jeff Wilke, who will retire. 

Clark is currently Amazon’s senior vice president, worldwide operations, a post he’s held since January 2013.

It is unclear if Amazon will fill Clark’s operations slot. One germ of speculation is that Alicia Boler Davis, who oversees the company’s warehousing and fulfillment network, and John Felton, who runs the transportation and delivery function, will co-manage the jobs that Clark had held. Boler Davis and Felton were also named to Amazon’s prestigious S-Team, a group of executives who advise Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon did not reply to a request for comment.

Clark invented the present-day Amazon transport and logistics network, which has been assembled mostly to provide one- to two-day deliveries of items ordered by subscribers to its Prime service. Amazon today has nearly 70 planes in its fleet, all of which are flown by registered operators. It expects to expand that to 80 planes in 2021. It also has hundreds of tractors and thousands of trailers that integrate with its flying operations. In July, Amazon moved 415 million parcels, two-thirds of which it handled itself, according to data from ShipMatrix, a consultancy.

Under Clark’s leadership, Amazon broke ground last year for a $1.5 billion air cargo hub on 920 acres at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. The facility is set to open in 2021. In the past two years, Clark has run the Prime Business, as well as marketing and the company’s “Stores” organizations.

David Glick, who worked directly for Clark for three years and is today chief technology officer of on-demand warehouse fulfillment company Flexe Inc., said in a phone interview Monday that Clark combines long-term vision with the ability to drill down into complex, day-to-day issues. Most of the growth of Amazon Logistics, which didn’t handle a single parcel in 2014, has been “due to Dave’s drive and foresight,” Glick said.

Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in late February, Clark has been the public face of Amazon. In early May, he was profiled in a “60 Minutes” piece, most of which focused on the steps Amazon was taking to protect its employees while ensuring business continuity in the wake of  skyrocketing volumes that no one expected.

Clark joined Amazon in 2001 after completing his MBA at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Clark was moving up through the operations and fulfillment ranks when in January 2013 he was named senior vice president of worldwide operations, which included what was then a fledgling shipping and logistics business that exclusively outsourced its transportation services. 

That all changed during a disastrous 2013 peak shipping season, when 300,000 parcels, most of which were to be delivered by UPS Inc., (NYSE:UPS) didn’t reach their destinations in time for Christmas. Amazon was furious with UPS over the debacle, although it had flooded the carrier with an avalanche of holiday packages at the last minute and gave UPS little visibility in the process. UPS, which already had endured a difficult December due to bad weather in parts of the country, suffered a reputational black eye that took several peak seasons to recover from.

Amazon had plans on the drawing board to build a shipping network. However, the 2013 experience catalyzed the company to launch the initiative almost immediately, and to push it faster and farther than what was originally conceived. Clark led the rapid-fire building of sortation centers, acquisition of trailers and recruitment of drivers. It has been said Amazon’s transport and logistics network would be nowhere nearly as formidable today had Clark not been there to shepherd it.

In a statement on Friday, Bezos said that “I can’t think of someone more suited” to assume Wilke’s role than Clark. In a separate statement, Wilke credited Clark with being the “big thinking energy” behind the Prime Air Fleet, Amazon Logistics and the company’s robotics business.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.
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