Amazon VP calls it a day

Amidst the online bookseller's expansion problems, VP Jimmy Wright has decided to retire at 45 years old.

Amazon.com's vice president for logistics, Jimmy Wright, has decided to retire at 45 years old, amid signs that the Internet merchant is running into snags carrying out its ambitious warehouse-expansion strategy. Mr. Wright, a former logistics expert at Wal-Mart Stores, joined Seattle-based Amazon in July 1998. At that time, Amazon's chief executive officer, Jeffrey Bezos, praised him as a savvy veteran who could help Amazon build up its shipping and distribution operations.

Mr. Wright said he had always regarded the Amazon assignment as relatively short term. "I told Jeff that I would build him a process and I would build him a team," he said. "I've done both. My wife and I are by the pool now, and we're talking about what kind of cattle we can raise on our ranch."

An Amazon spokesman said Mr. Wright's departure was amicable, adding that "we wish him the best." The spokesman also said that Amazon later this month plans to announce a top-level successor to Mr. Wright, most likely an outside hire.

Nonetheless, Amazon officials acknowledged industry chatter that their rush to build and operate big distribution centers isn't playing out as smoothly as the Seattle company might have wanted. Asked to describe the status of Amazon's distribution centers, a company official said: "This is complicated stuff. It's challenging. It's all about execution."

Amazon has committed itself this year to adding three million square feet of warehouse space. Those facilities are meant to carry not just Amazon's traditional selection of books, music and videos, but also newer additions to its sales catalog, such as toys and electronics. In conference calls with securities analysts this year, Amazon's CEO, Mr. Bezos, has defended the warehouse expansion as a long-term strategic boon for his company. But he has said that the facilities' arrival may squeeze short-term operating margins, because they won't be operating at peak efficiency for at least their first few months.

In Nasdaq Stock Market trading Thursday, Amazon shares rose 56.25 cents to $60.0625 (£36.6).

Last month, Mr. Wright reported that he had sold 75,000 Amazon shares, netting about $7.5 million. He said Thursday that he still owns about 10,000 to 15,000 Amazon shares, adding that by leaving the Internet merchant, he is walking away from significant unvested options in the company's stock.

"Financially, we're fairly secure, though," Mr. Wright said. At this point, he said, extra stock-market gains would just mean "extra money in my children's trust funds."

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