Dave Clark knew something was off when the executive chairman of Flexport, Ryan Petersen, showed up on the video call on Wednesday with Robert Swan, a board member at the freight forwarder. Clark—a former star Amazon executive whom Petersen had lured to Flexport to become its CEO last year—had expected Petersen to be on the call by himself.
Petersen and Swan quickly broke the news to Clark: Wednesday was his last day at Flexport and he could resign immediately or be fired the next day by the company’s board. Petersen, Flexport’s founder, who had been working as a venture capitalist, would return to run the company.
It was a stunning turn of events for Clark, who had only the slightest inkling in recent days that he might not be on the firmest ground at Flexport, Clark told The Information in his most extensive remarks since his departure from Flexport. The startup was one of the breakout stars of the pandemic, when supply chains snagged and online shopping boomed, landing it an $8 billion valuation in early 2022. There was a tense Flexport board meeting last week over the company’s sluggish sales and a need to cut costs, but Clark said he left the meeting feeling like everyone was on the same page.