Will GameStop be saved by former Amazon executives who served under Jeff Bezos?

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GameStop’s new chairman Ryan Cohen (aka Chewy’s founder) is betting a big chunk of his wealth on disciples of outgoing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos‘ unrelenting, take no prisoners in the pursuit of winning culture being able to completely revamp the struggling gaming retailer. 

A supportive and enthusiastic retail investor base gathered in-person at the GameStop’s Grapevine, Tex., headquarters and on social media fixated on the company’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday. At the meeting GameStop announced that Matt Furlong will be the company’s next CEO, effective June 21. 

According to his LinkedIn profile, Furlong has spent eight years and eight months at tech beast Amazon. He joined in October 2012 from Procter & Gamble as a senior manager of vendor development. Furlong has spent the last two years leading Amazon’s Australian business. 

Serving as Robin to Furlong’s Batman, Mike Recupero was announced as the company’s next CFO. Recupero begins at GameStop on July 21. Where did Recupero get recruited from? You guessed it, Amazon. 

Recupero has spent the last 17 years with Amazon, rising the ranks through the e-commerce giant’s finance functions, per his LinkedIn profile. Most recently, Recupero held the CFO position of Amazon’s North America consumer business. 

The latest Amazon defectors will join several others recruited by GameStop from the tenure of Jeff Bezos‘ CEO rule (which ends July 5). 

  • Elliott Wilke: Wilke started as GameStop’s chief growth officer on April 5. Wilke spent eight years at Amazon, ending his stint at the company as a director of Amazon Fresh stores. At GameStop, Wilke is focused on growth strategies, improving the chain’s loyalty program and marketing. 

  • Jenna Owens: Owens began as GameStop’s chief operating officer on March 29. Owens logged over four years at Amazon, ending as director, general manager, distribution and multi-channel fulfillment. At GameStop, Owens oversees business intelligence, fulfillment, supply chain, and store operations. Her LinkedIn profile says she is hiring at GameStop. We wouldn’t be surprised if some of those hires come from her former employer.

  • Matt Francis: Francis became GameStop’s chief technology officer on Feb. 15. He had the shortest stint at Amazon among GameStop’s new leaders, leaving as an engineering leader for Amazon Web Services after a year to join GameStop. Francis now oversees GameStop’s e-commerce and tech functions.

Essentially, Cohen — who no doubt knows Amazon well having battled them hard while launching pet products seller Chewy in 2011 — has packed the GameStop executive ranks with deep experience from the best retailer on Earth. Not a bad move, especially considering they all likely know each other (camaraderie is important on an executive team) and are cut from the same Bezos leadership cloth (and frankly, surviving Amazon’s intense culture for a number of years earns each executive a gold star in this writer’s book).

If any group is going to position GameStop correctly for the next decade, it’s these executives who were hatched inside Amazon’s winning culture. 

What’s more, the positions for all the executives are arguably the highest-ranking ones they have had in terms of organizational hierarchy in their careers. It’s very probable they are hungry to put all their learnings from Bezos‘ cutthroat culture to work, prove themselves and within five years run a larger company. 

Again, smart moves here by Cohen to hire for one part motivation, one part the experience on the resume.

And to be sure, the newly implanted GameStop executive team is going to need every ounce of what they have learned at Amazon. 

There’s a lot to fix

As GameStop’s latest earnings on Wednesday evening shows ($21 million adjusted operating loss, gross profit margins down 180 basis points), there is a ton to fix. Reinventing a chain that has thousands of tiny stores that just sell low margin gaming hardware will not be an easy feat. 

It’s not like GameStop is going to start selling organic groceries out of one of its low trafficked mall stores. It’s also unlikely GameStop offers up its stores to ship Chewy orders in a new partnership. Is GameStop’s non-mall stores poised to become electric charging stations that have a high margin green juice bar inside? Unlikely.

So the mountain climb will be tough. 

And keep in mind, the turnaround will be playing out in a very public forum thanks to GameStop being the OG of the meme stock movement. That means Furlong will have perhaps one of the most fiercest CEO jobs in corporate America right now. He has to show results quickly to keep the faith of the meme stock army, or risk sending the stock down the drain. He has to please billionaire chairman Cohen. And also along the way, he must build a good relationship with Wall Street (which still matters). 

We —and the investing world and probably former boss Bezos — will be watching. No pressure.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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