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Flexport CEO Dave Clark steps down

Former Amazon executive says in interview that Flexport is redirecting its focus on global trade

Dave Clark (l) is stepping down as Flexport CEO. Founder Ryan Petersen will take the role again. (Photos courtesy of Amazon and Flexport)

Update on 09/07/23: Sources told FreightWaves that Flexport’s board decided to fire CEO Dave Clark, prompting his Wednesday resignation. Read the story here.

Dave Clark, the prominent ex-Amazon executive who was instrumental in building the company’s supply chain apparatus, announced on Wednesday that he is leaving Flexport, a global freight forwarding company valued at $8 billion.

Clark officially joined Flexport in September 2022 as co-CEO with Flexport founder Ryan Petersen. Clark, according to plan, assumed the role of CEO in March, while Petersen became Flexport’s executive chairman. 

There has been a change of plans, a Flexport representative confirmed.

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

Clark told FreightWaves in a phone interview Wednesday evening that, when he joined the buzzy company last year, he and Petersen were “aligned” on making Flexport an end-to-end solution for customers. That has meant more U.S.-focused transportation and warehousing, rather than initiatives in ocean shipping. For example, in June, Flexport signaled its entry into e-commerce fulfillment and last-mile delivery when it acquired Shopify’s logistics arm.

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

However, Clark said growth in the freight transportation space has been challenging. Freight demand has been weak through much of 2022 and 2023. Flexport laid off about 20% of its staff, or 700 workers, in January amid a slowdown in freight volumes.

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

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

On Wednesday afternoon, Clark emailed the staff he is leaving Flexport. Two minutes after the email was delivered to Flexport’s staff of approximately 3,200 workers (with the email subject “Thank you Flexport.”), Clark posted the text on X, formerly known as Twitter.  

“Founders have the right to change their mind,” Clark wrote in a statement attached to his Wednesday afternoon post on X. “I came to Flexport to do big things and that’s where I believe we were headed. Today, Ryan and I discussed his desire to return to focusing on growth in the core freight business. In light of that, I feel that he is best suited to lead the company in that direction. As such, I will be resigning from my position at Flexport.”

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

The leadership shuffle appears to be sudden. On Tuesday, the day before Clark stepped down, Flexport advertised an in-person event to launch a new product hosted by Clark and Petersen.

Logistics professionals were shocked by Clark’s departure. The Wall Street Journal exclusively reported on Wednesday that Clark is potentially running for governor in Texas.

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

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

Clark did not confirm or deny the report that he may be running for political office, but noted any political moves were “not the impetus” for his departure from Flexport.

While at Flexport, Clark hired several key ex-Amazon people for roles at the company, including its chief commercial officer and senior vice president of operations and the leadership for its new truck brokerage.

Petersen announced in July that he was becoming a partner of the 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 to share? Contact [email protected]

Rachel Premack

Rachel Premack is the editorial director at FreightWaves. She writes the newsletter MODES. Her reporting on the logistics industry has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Vox, and additional digital and print media. She's also spoken about her work on PBS Newshour, ABC News, NBC News, NPR, and other major outlets. If you’d like to get in touch with Rachel, please email her at [email protected] or [email protected].