Bloomberg: February 3, 2020: Behind Amazon’s HQ2 Fiasco: Jeff Bezos Was Jealous of Elon Musk
Determined to meet Bezos’s demand for Tesla-size government handouts, the HQ2 team became victims of their own hubris.
When Elon Musk secured $1.3 billion from Nevada in 2014 to open a gigantic battery plant, Jeff Bezos noticed. In meetings, the Amazon.com Inc. chief expressed envy for how Musk had pitted five Western states against one another in a bidding war for thousands of manufacturing jobs; he wondered why Amazon was okay with accepting comparatively trifling incentives. It was a theme Bezos returned to often, according to four people privy to his thinking. Then in 2017, an Amazon executive sent around a congratulatory email lauding his team for landing $40 million in government incentives to build a $1.5 billion air hub near Cincinnati.
Looking back, some Amazon employees say they shouldn’t have blindly assumed that Amazon would be welcomed everywhere, but still see signs of success in the 25,000 jobs to come in Virginia and 5,000 in Nashville, Tennessee. Others involved in the process say executives tied their hands by prioritizing secrecy over relationship-building. “Negotiating incentives is easy,” one says. “What’s hard is winning hearts and minds and Amazon didn’t do anything to win hearts and minds.”