A powerful Amazon executive who had been considered top contender to succeed Jeff Bezos as chief executive is leaving, the company revealed in a surprise announcement on Friday.
Jeff Wilke — a 20-year veteran at the Seattle-based e-commerce giant who oversees the e-commerce titan’s consumer business, including everything from is Prime business to Whole Foods — will retire early next year, Amazon said in a securities filing.
Wilke’s retirement is by his own choice and has been in the works for some time, a source familiar with the situation told The Post. The 52-year-old executive has only been waiting to complete two final projects. The first: overseeing the rollout of Amazon Go convenience stores and their ambitious cashierless technology.
With 26 locations in the US and more on the way, Wilke’s final task at Amazon will be to oversee the rollout of the high-powered sensors — which allow customers to simply take items off the shelf and walk out of the store without stopping at a register — to the upscale supermarket chain that Amazon acquired for $13.7 billion in 2017.
“Amazon Go proved out the tech, but they can’t figure out how to make those stores profitable,” the source told The Post. “But Whole Foods prints cash, and with healthy margins, too.”
The rollout of the technology is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2021, just after Wilke’s retirement.
Wilke had long been seen by many Amazon watchers as the company’s No. 2 executive. He will be succeeded by Dave Clark, who currently serves as senior vice president for worldwide operations.
In a memo titled “Hanging up the flannel,” CEO Jeff Bezos called Wilke “an incredible teacher to all of us,” adding that Clark is well suited to assume Jeff’s role early next year.
“Since Jeff joined the company, I have been lucky enough to have him as my tutor,” Bezos said. “Jeff’s legacy and impact will live on long after he departs. He is simply one of those people without whom Amazon would be completely unrecognizable.”
Amazon declined to comment further on Wilke’s plan to retire.
Shares of Amazon were off 0.3 percent early Friday at $3,286. The company’s stock is up more than 80 percent since March when the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down the United States and stuck-at-home consumers turned to Amazon for their shopping needs.