Jeff Wilke, chief executive of Amazon's signature retail business, announced to employees on Friday that he plans to retire from the company in 2021. Wilke has been a top executive at Amazon for 22 years and has served as the CEO of Worldwide Consumer since April 2016.
Wilke said he was not leaving Amazon to take a job elsewhere, and reinforced his support of the company and top boss Jeff Bezos. Wilke's replacement will be David Clark, the senior VP of worldwide operations.
In a letter to his team, Wilke described his early days with Amazon, when, before the implementation of statistical process control and purpose-built software, senior executives would fly to the company's fulfillment centers to help with the holiday shipping rush.
He credits that experience with shaping his leadership style and his efforts to ensure the operations team was represented in the corporate environment. Amazon has more than 175 fulfillment centers across the globe, including more than 110 facilities in the US.
"COVID-19 has pulled me back to my roots in operations as I work with the teams building antigen testing capacity, which we'll deploy first to our front-line employees," Wilke wrote. "I'm so proud of the dedication our people have shown as they pick, pack, ship, and deliver to hundreds of millions of customers around the world who depend on us."
Since the start of the pandemic, Amazon has taken a number of steps to address the COVID-19 health risks posed to its warehouse workers, such as implementing enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures, delivering personal protective gear like masks to employees and implementing temperature checks across its operations.
Some of these measures, however, were only implemented after workers at Amazon fulfillment centers began speaking out in protest over the company's lack of precautionary measures -- and after workers began getting sick.