Two Flexport executives to leave after CEO’s abrupt exit

The exits by the now former CEO’s lieutenants are continuing, and more departures are possible according to a person familiar with the matter.
Now former CEO Dave Clark started at Flexport about a year ago, joining from Amazon.
Now former CEO Dave Clark started at Flexport about a year ago, joining from Amazon.
By Brendan Murray, Bloomberg

Flexport Inc. executives Teresa Carlson and Darcie Henry are leaving the company, both hired during the tenure of Chief Executive Officer Dave Clark, who unexpectedly departed on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said.

Carlson was hired at the start of this year as president and chief commercial officer for the logistics startup. Henry joined in October 2022 as chief human resources officer. Both had previously worked at Inc., where Clark spent much of his career before joining Flexport in September 2022.

While Clark said he resigned, the person said Flexport’s board voted to oust him and bring back founder Ryan Petersen to be CEO.

The exits by Clark’s lieutenants are continuing, and more departures are possible, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company details. Some of them clashed with Flexport’s entrepreneurial culture and focus on prioritizing customer relations, the person said.

Flexport is one of the country’s most prominent startups, having raised more than $2 billion in funding and notching a valuation of $8 billion. Earlier this year, Flexport said it would cut 20% of its staff, which consisted of about 3,000 people according to LinkedIn. But the company also is beefing up its engineering team by hiring 350 to 400 software programmers to help speed its digital platform offerings.

Speaking Tuesday — the day before he left the company — Clark said he expected revenue this year would fall short of the nearly USD 5 billion that its founder boasted about reaching last year.

“A big piece of that gross revenue number is the cost of freight,” he said in an interview from his office in Dallas. “So even with growth — when the container drops from USD20,000 to USD2,000, the revenue hit is pretty substantial.”

The next day, Clark tweeted that he was resigning and that founders “have a right to change their mind.”

That was a reference to Petersen, who subsequently posted “I’m back!!!” on X, formerly Twitter. Petersen also sent a note to staff that he was returning to run the San Francisco-based company. With more than USD1 billion in cash, “our fortress balance sheet remains intact” with a multibillion book of business in more than 100 countries, he said.

The episode illustrates the frictions that arise when an old-economy industry like shipping, where personal relationships are paramount, shifts into the impersonal business of digital commerce.

It also shows how quickly expectations and relationships can change at high-flying tech startups like Flexport in a boom-bust industry. During the pandemic, the cost of shipping containers increased more than 10-fold to almost USD21,000 for a 20-foot unit from Asia to the US West Coast, only to come crashing back below USD2,000 this month.

On Thursday, Clark didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Clark started at Flexport about a year ago, joining from Amazon. As recently as Tuesday, he posted on LinkedIn about plans to speak next week in Seattle at a Flexport “exclusive launch event.”

If he was planning to leave Flexport, it wasn’t evident when asked Tuesday whether he was more daunted or more optimistic about where the company is headed after a year at the helm.

“I’m more optimistic. Do I wish the freight market was a little better and cooperating more in the last few months — yeah, of course,” he said. “There’s so much opportunity to make this better for our customers” and “our leadership team has the experience to deliver it and our technology teams have the skills to deliver it.”

After his departure on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clark is considering a campaign to become governor of Texas. On Twitter, he posted the story and said, “God Bless Texas.”

Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg LP, is an investor in Flexport.

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