Flexport CEO Dave Clark is stepping down

Dave Clark (left) is stepping down as CEO of Flexport. Founder Ryan Petersen will once again take on the role. (Photo: Jim Allen/Free Waves)

Dave Clark, the former high-profile Amazon executive who was instrumental in building the company’s supply chain apparatus, announced Wednesday that he is leaving Flexport, the $8 billion global shipping company.

Clark officially joined Flexport in September 2022 as co-CEO with Flexport founder Ryan Petersen. According to the plan, Clark took over as CEO in March, while Petersen became CEO of Flexport.

A Flexport representative confirmed that there had been a change of plans.

“Today, Dave Clark has resigned from his position as CEO of Flexport,” the representative said in a statement emailed to FreightWaves. Founder Ryan Petersen will return as CEO. Ryan and the rest of the board thank Dave Clark for his leadership over the past year. Flexport has nothing else to share on this at this time.

Clark told FreightWaves in a phone interview Wednesday night that when he joined the bustling company last year, he and Petersen were “attuned” to making Flexport a one-stop solution for customers. This meant more focus on transportation and warehousing in the United States, rather than initiatives in ocean shipping. For example, in June, Flexport marked its foray into last-mile e-commerce and delivery needs when it acquired the logistics arm of Shopify.

“This is the journey we’ve been on and we’ve built the team to support that,” Clark said.

However, Clark said growth in freight transportation is challenging. Freight demand has been weak for most of 2022 and 2023. Flexport laid off about 20% of its staff, or 700 workers, in January amid slowing freight volumes.

This may be one reason why Petersen, who founded Flexport in 2013, is interested in redirecting Flexport’s focus back to its “core mission” of freight forwarding and global trade. Petersen did not immediately respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment.

Clark said Petersen has a vision to grow the global commercial part of the business. Clark added that he and Petersen “mutually decided” that the former would leave the company.

On Wednesday afternoon, Clarke emailed employees that he was leaving Flexport. Two minutes after delivering the email to Flexport’s roughly 3,200 employees (with the email subject “Thank you Flexport.”), Clarke posted the text to X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Founders have every right to change their minds,” Clark wrote in a statement accompanying his post Wednesday afternoon on X. “I came to Flexport to do big things and this is where I think we’ve been heading. Ryan and I discussed today his desire to return to focus on growth in the business core freight.In light of this, I feel he is best suited to lead the company in this direction.As such, I will be resigning from my position at Flexport.

Just over an hour after Clarke’s post on X, Petersen — known for his sassy tone on the social media site — posted, “I’m back!!!”

The change of leadership appears to have been sudden. On Tuesday, the day before Clark stepped down, Flexport announced an in-person new product launch event hosted by Clark and Petersen.

The logistics professionals were shocked by Clark’s departure. And The Wall Street Journal reported exclusively on Wednesday that Clarke is likely to run for governor of Texas.

Since moving to Texas in 2021, Clark told FreightWaves he has embraced political advocacy and “always loved being involved in politics.”

“There’s a lot to kick in the world,” he said.

Clark did not confirm or deny the report that he might run for political office, but noted that any political moves “were not the trigger” for his departure from Flexport.

While at Flexport, Clark hired several former key people at Amazon to positions in the company, including commercial director, senior vice president of operations and leadership of the new truck brokerage.

Petersen announced in July that he had become a partner in Founders Fund, a leading venture capital firm led by billionaire Peter Thiel.

This is a developing story.

Are you a current or former Flexport employee with a story you want to share? communication rpremack@freightwaves.com.

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