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Amazon is putting veteran leaders in charge of its big grocery delivery plans

The company is accelerating the growth of its retail and delivery options.

Amazon Expands Grocery Delivery Service To Los Angeles Area Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

You can tell a lot about how serious Amazon is about a new business by who Jeff Bezos and his executive team tap to work on it. So when it comes to Amazon’s plans to double down on grocery delivery and even open grocery stores, the people running it tell the story.

Earlier this year, longtime Amazonian Ben Hartman was chosen to run Amazon Fresh, Recode has learned. Hartman was most recently the technical adviser or “shadow” to Jeff Wilke, the CEO of Amazon’s global consumer business, sources say. The “shadow” program is a big deal at Amazon, with graduates typically going on to run crucial new initiatives at the company.

Amazon lifer Steve Kessel, a member of Bezos’s leadership team, is also involved in the planning for Amazon grocery store experiments, two sources told Recode. We previously reported that Kessel is overseeing all of Amazon’s efforts around opening up retail stores, including the new bookshops it has unveiled.

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Amazon spokespeople didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Since first launching Amazon Fresh grocery delivery in 2007, Amazon has taken a conservative approach to expansion, opening the service in only a handful of regions. But in the past month, it has lowered the price of the service and allowed for monthly payments instead of one large upfront fee.

Amazon is also building its own drive-up grocery stores and is said to be planning small brick-and-mortar convenience stores that will sell perishable foods. Doug Herrington, Amazon’s SVP of North America Retail, is also helping to oversee these plans, sources say.

At Amazon, the shadow program began with Bezos tapping up-and-coming execs to one- to two-year stints working by his side on a daily basis. Previous Bezos shadows include Andy Jassy, now CEO of Amazon’s AWS business, and Amit Agarwal, who runs Amazon India. Last year, Bezos named a woman to the role for the first time: Maria Renz, previously the head of Amazon’s Quidsi subsidiary.

Somewhere along the line, Jeff Wilke got his own shadows, too. Before Hartman, Amazon’s Stephenie Landry was Wilke’s shadow. Today, she runs Amazon’s high-profile Prime Now one-hour delivery service.

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