Diego Piacentini, who heads Amazon’s international consumer business, is taking a leave of absence from Amazon to take the Italian position.
Top Amazon.com executive Diego Piacentini is taking a leave of absence from the company to run the Italian government’s digital efforts.
Piacentini is Amazon’s senior vice president for the company’s international consumer business. His leave was reported in a securities filing Wednesday. CEO Jeff Bezos wrote a tweet congratulating Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, saying, “We are so proud of Diego. Great for Italy. Kudos to all!”
Renzi thanked Bezos on Twitter. “Thank you, @JeffBezos. It will be a pleasure to work with @diegopia. Come to Italy and we can talk about innovation!”
Piacentini, a native Italian who has been at Amazon for 16 years, will run Renzi’s digital technology office.
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In 2000, Piacentini, now 55, joined an upstart Amazon from Apple. More recently he has been in charge of Amazon’s ambitious overseas efforts, which include a big bet on India and a significant ramp up in Europe. He’s also a big holder of Amazon shares. Among the company’s top brass, as of early 2015 he was second only to Bezos, according to a proxy filing.
Piacentini will work pro-bono starting this summer, according to a post on Amazon’s website.
In the post, he says he will take to his homeland some of Amazon’s philosophy.
“Think big and stay focused on the customer. That’s what we plan to do in Italy,” he said in the post.
In a Medium post, Paolo Barberis, innovation adviser for the Italian government, welcomed Piacentini. “Benvenuto Diego, construiamo il paese digitale,” or “Welcome Diego, let’s build the digital country.”
According to Barberis, Piacentini’s homecoming has been cooking for a while, beginning with a Silicon Valley visit by Renzi and his team. (The trip took place in 2014, and Renzi met with top executives at Twitter, Google and Yahoo, according to Italian press reports.)
Italy has been working on attracting foreign investment, specifically in technology, to buttress a challenged economy.
Renzi last month celebrated on his Facebook page that Cisco had committed to investing $100 million in the country over the next three years.
In the securities filing, Amazon said Russ Grandinetti, the company’s senior vice president for Kindle Content, will oversee the international consumer business. He will report to Jeff Wilke, senior vice president for consumer business.
Amazon also announced Wednesday that Corning CEO Wendell Weeks has been appointed to its board of directors.
Also, the company said the board authorized the repurchase of $5 billion in stock, upgrading a previous $2 billion repurchase authorization established in 2010.
The repurchase program enables Amazon to buy stock opportunistically.
Shares jumped 1.38 percent after market close in the wake of the announcement, trading at $497.25.