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Jeff Wilke, a 21-year Amazon veteran who led its consumer business and was long thought to be a successor to chief executive Jeff Bezos, is retiring in early 2021, the company announced Friday.

As chief executive of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer business, Wilke oversees its massive online marketplace, the entry point to the company for most consumers. Running that giant business, which accounted for the lion’s share of Amazon’s $88.9 billion in sales last quarter and its 876,800 employees, made Wilke the de facto No. 2 executive at the retail giant.

In a memo to employees, Wilke said he was not leaving for another a job and that he would retire in the first quarter of 2021.

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‘‘I don’t have a new job, and am as happy with and proud of Amazon as ever,’’ wrote Wilke, 53.

He will be succeeded by Dave Clark, who serves as senior vice president of the company’s worldwide operations, Wilke wrote. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

In his own memo to staff, Bezos described Wilke as his ‘‘tutor’’ and touted the executive’s contributions to Amazon.

‘‘Jeff’s legacy and impact will live on long after he departs,’’ Bezos wrote.

Washington Post