Skip to main content

tv   After Words Brad Stone Amazon Unbound  CSPAN  July 9, 2021 2:31pm-3:29pm EDT

2:31 pm
sunday on c-span 2. now on book tv's after words program, bloomberg news reports on the growth and evolution of amazon and profiles its founder jeff bezos. he's interviewed by insider's chief tech correspondent eugene kim. >> i'm very excited to be here to interview you today for your new book amazon unbound. before we start, i want to tell you when i first started covering amazon, about five years ago, the first thing i did was to read your previous book about amazon "the everything store". for me it is a true honor to get this opportunity, and i'm looking forward to it. >> thanks, eugene. you know, people probably don't know this, but the fraternity of reporters who cover amazon is a small one, and we all kind of
2:32 pm
know each other, and, you know, you've just done a tremendous, tremendous work covering amazon, and so it's great to talk to someone who, you know, is steeped in this secretive bizarre, you know, highly productive company, like amazon. >> thanks. the first thing i would like to ask is just the timing of the book. you know, it ended up becoming incredibly [inaudible] the perfect time to publish a new book about amazon, given jeff bezos is stepping down in a couple months. can you kind of tell us, what was the catalyst or, you know, your thinking behind coming up with this book? >> sure. and of course, you know, i did not time it. i did not have any idea that jeff bezos would be leaving as ceo of amazon. in fact, i started this book really in the beginning of 2018.
2:33 pm
so the list of things, you know, that i didn't know is long. you know, hq 2 i think had maybe -- yeah, i think it was just being announced, and that played out in the early stages of my research. you know, jeff's personal saga, his divorce from mackenzie, the whole tabloid thing over his personal life. that all happened midway through my research. and then i was writing it during the pandemic, you know, this extraordinary time when, you know, amazon already a very rapidly-growing company was basically given an injection of steroids and also moved into the center of this acrimonious debate over how it treats its workers and the safety of warehouse workers during the age of covid-19. it was all a surprise. the reason i wrote the book and decided to do another amazon book which eugene i'm sure you can appreciate is just being a total glutton for punishment is because i was really proud of "the everything store", and yet it occurred to me over the years
2:34 pm
that it was sort of a dated history -- well, it wasn't a dated history. it was part of the story, right? it was the beginning. it was the origin, the rise of jeff bezos, the origin of amazon, and yet, you know, then there was alexa and the growth of the transportation network and the explosion in the amazon marketplace, and so much had happened, the 150 billion dollars company had become the trillion dollars company. bezos was the wealthiest person in the world, and i realized there was a whole other chapter to the saga. >> right. and i personally love the intro, the first theme of the book. it kind of -- it's like an opening scene of a movie, and basically it starts at this kind of celebrity-packed event in 2019. bezos is at the center of attention. it sets the tone for the entire book. what were you trying to capture, or what does that say about the
2:35 pm
period of amazon you were trying to capture in this book? >> so the opening anecdote of the book is jeff bezos being inducted into the smithsonian's gallery. this is the, you know, sanctified hall of the most famous americans throughout history, frederick douglas, abraham lincoln, george washington, and bezos along with half a dozen other people, like lin-manuel miranda are being conducted. their portraits are going to hang in the gallery. you know, there he is, at the opening ceremony, his son preston introduces him, you know, he gives a speech. he's surrounded by the upper crest elite of american society, politicians, media, and you know, there were a number of things i really liked about it. one thing he said in his speech is, you know, he commended the artist for the portrait which is quite severe -- i don't know if you have seen it, you --
2:36 pm
eugene, and he looks scary in the portrait and he commends the artist for kind of portraying him scars and all. he says i have gathered a lot of scars in the last 20 years, leading amazon, and that's one thing the portrait shows. i think, you know, metaphorical scars so i like that because the book was going to be an account of his rise to power, and so to me, it really, you know, just represented the journey that i was going to hopefully take readers on. >> yeah. so if you had to sum up this period you wrote about, it is sort of like a sequel to your earlier book. i think i saw your tweet about comparing this to "star wars" or -- >> this is "the empire strikes back". >> but yes, so how is this amazon or this new jeff bezos different from the one you wrote about in your first book?
2:37 pm
>> he absolutely is different. and right? there's a number -- in a number of ways. the first and most obvious is visibly he's a different guy, right? the sort of awkward, tech nerd from seattle, always sort of unfashionable, the crazy laugh, you know, the presentations that were incredibly esoteric and technical, like his introduction to the fire phone, that's the jeff bezos of "the everything store". over the last five years, i mean, first of all, you know, kudos to his physical trainer, right, because, you know, that's quite an exercise regiment. and, you know, he is much more fashionable. i think, you know, it seems plausible that lauren sanchez, his partner has, you know, boosted his fashion levels quite a bit. you know, he's got the sunglasses and the, you know, and the crisp suits. okay, so that's one dimension of change. i think another is, you know,
2:38 pm
"the everything store" is the portrait of quite a brutal ceo who is very punishing, you know, and sets high standards and kind of lashes out at underlings who don't need a standard. it is very steve jobs like management style. and i think he's evolved in that way as well. i mean there are many fewer of those kinds of stories in "amazon unbound". there are some, in that respect it is maybe a little godfather two like in which we're flashing back of jeff tearing up documents and throwing them at employees and moe vating them in that -- motivating them in that way. he has a more delicate touch now. and yet, you know, he still has the founder's magic, sets high bars. employees kind of scramble to answer his question mark e-mails and to satisfy him. and then the other way is different. the last way i think he's significantly different is that his focus has expanded so much. he was laser focused for so long on amazon and building, you know, this mechanism, this
2:39 pm
system of invention that could carry on, and now, and this is i think the territory that "amazon unbound" covers his purchase of the washington post, his deeper involvement in blue origin, his space company, his philanthropy obviously. his eyes have opened up to a much larger world and i think that's a little bit behind his resignation as ceo. there's so much more that he's doing now. he's not just become the -- he's gone from being the iconic tech ceo of "the everything store" into this global presence of "amazon unbound". >> yeah, and also the company itself, amazon that he's leading, the profile has completely changed from the first book to now, right? it is like this conglomerate that every business market you could imagine. >> in one way i think to really bring that home is when we think back to amazon's battles with the book publishers and how
2:40 pm
trivial those seem now, right, in the rj laker scheme of things -- in the larger scheme of things. those are significant issues in the book industry. but amazon was fighting with the book publishers over the 9.99 kindle price and the availability of the number of ex-books in the -- e-books of the kindle store. it was because the book business was so strategic, and this was 2011, 2012. and now, you know, the book business obviously still very representative of amazon and its image. i think a lot of people probably still do think of amazon as a book seller, but it is a minor part of its business. i mean, this is a company is truly "the everything store" now. one of its most important markets is no longer the kindle, but alexa, the voice-activated computer. it's investing billions of dollars in india. it has, you know, global ambitions, and, you know,
2:41 pm
probably thinks more about hollywood and tv shows and movies in terms of important content than books. >> yeah. and while we're talking about bezos' transformation, what did other amazon executives think about it? i think in your book you say some senior leaders were happy about the increased autonomy, independence, while some people were disappointed because, you know, bezos basically failed to meet his own high standards by becoming fodder for tabloids -- >> are we talking about the tabloids? yeah, well, i mean, first of all, we can both kind of acknowledge how difficult it is, right, to get amazon executives to talk, particularly on the record, right, about their boss. it's a sort of radioactive topic. you know, i think, you know, fortunately, like this was a
2:42 pm
long-term project, and it was, you know, the elephant in the room that maybe needed to be addressed. i think if you are asking like how did they respond to the tabloid scandals of late 2018, early 2019, with i think like probably both of us, with utter astonishment, like how could the world's smartest and most disciplined man be part of this, get caught up in this? "the national enquirer", a tabloid that hasn't been relevant for many years, splashing the personal life of an intensely private person on its pages and then jeff responding with that famous blog post on medium, accusing "the enquirer" of having political motives and maybe international intrigue saying the saudi example [inaudible]. amazon executives and employees were absolutely astonished, and i definitely heard disappointment from many quarters, that he allowed
2:43 pm
himself to be subject to this, but i think we have to example that bezos played it masterfully, right? the medium post and we can get into, you know, whether its accusations of political intrigue were true, but it got sympathies to his side. i think despite the disappointment, a lot of folks at amazon and around amazon had to sort of acknowledge that once again jeff had won, he outmaneuvered his enemies. we look back and say that was a bizarre episode. it's pretty much in the past, and bezos as usual came out on top. >> yeah. did you talk to bezos or mackenzie scott, his ex wife or i think you mentioned you talked to amazon executives, can you tell us about that? >> sure. well, first of all, eugene, you probably remember that when "the everything store" came out, then mackenzie bezos gave me a one
2:44 pm
star review. you know, i sort of bragged that it was the most famous book review, you know, ever. it's certainly sort of up there, but what it reflected was that they didn't like the first book. they thought it was, you know, there were a number of -- they had a number of problems with it, and, you know, i wasn't going for a portrait and a picture of a company that was challenging to work for and to work with, but had nevertheless risen to be very powerful in our society. so i had to get past some of the memory from the first book. in the end, amazon did cooperate. they authorized a couple of dozen interviews with top executives, like andy jassy and jeff wilke and dave clark who is now the ceo of consumer business after wilke retired. bezos would not talk to me. and mackenzie scott as far as i can tell has done one interview with "vogue" magazine years and years ago tied to a book launch
2:45 pm
but tends to be an intensely private person who has so far avoided the media spotlight >> so maybe we can start with the first chapter of the book, you know, i think there's a lot of great anecdotes about bezos' role in coming up with alexa and the echo, and i think the common thread is that bezos set the bar really high. he pushed the team to aim for almost irrational goals, right? i think one quote i remember is you guys aren't serious about making this product. >> [inaudible]. >> so how important was bezos for coming up with this device that, you know, arguably the most successful personal device that amazon came up with? >> sure. you know, we're probably going to talk about amazon as a
2:46 pm
potential monopolist, you know, as a dominating force in american business, so i don't mind, and this is why i start the book off this way, you know, giving amazon credit and jeff bezos credit as an innovative company and bezos as an inventor. that's how he likes to describe himself, as an inventor. when i dug into the history of alexa, it was surprising because the real story had not been told. and essentially the idea for alexa springs out of -- right out of jeff's mind in an e-mail in late 2010, he sends a note to his technical assistant at the time, kind of the chief of staff, ian freed, steve kessel, a couple of executives and says why don't we build a $20 computer whose brains are in the cloud, that uses aws that's completely controlled by your voice. and that was a really kind of radical notion, this idea that most speech recognition systems at that time you spoke right into, that makes it really easy, so speaking to a device across
2:47 pm
the room was going to be a technical challenge, and then there's just the challenge of, you know, having it understand you and respond, that required an advance in artificial intelligence. and, you know, but bezos was doing a couple things. one, he was looking for ways to exploit amazon's early lead in amazon web services. and he was, you know, he was looking for ways to kind of, you know, move amazon into every day use in people's lives. so to answer your question, he conceives the project. he puts greg hart, his chief of staff in charge of it, and then he uses the uber product manager, that's kind of what they called him. he drives the vision. he meets with the team sometimes several times a week. he picks alexa's voice. he makes decisions about what features it should have. he wrestles with the team about whether alexa is going to basically do practical stuff like playing music. he wants it to be the computer, kind of a versatile artificial
2:48 pm
intelligence, and then he sets the bar high. first he says he wants it to launch in six months, which is impossible. it takes three years. but he constantly drives the team. he authorizes probably the biggest impact he had, he's willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it. at one point he said to greg hart, hire all the ai folks that you can. there shouldn't be any limit, like he gives him carte blanche to go and hire any smart ai or speech person who is available on the market. when the ceo is behind something like that, particularly the founder, you know, that gives in any company, that's going to give a project a lot of momentum. >> yeah. and with bezos' role as this key product manager, i think you raise an interesting point in your book that that also creates this culture of fear, where people are too afraid to, you know, argue against or bring up different ideas or, you know, say it's not a good idea against
2:49 pm
bezos. is that -- like did that affect, you know, alexa's product road map or results in any way or, you know -- >> right, well, i think that the big illustration of that is the fire phone, right? that that was another idea. i nestle the fire phone story in the alexa chapter. jeff had this idea that you can have a 3d screen and a premium hand set and differentiate from the iphone, and nobody on the team thought it was a good idea. in fact, they had dog tags made that said disagree and commit, a kind of amazon saying which stood for we have to do this but we don't agree with the product road map, and, you know, and it didn't seem like anybody really stood up to jeff's vision. to answer your question, in terms of alexa, sure, there were features that launched with the original echo, you know, they are too obscure even to name,
2:50 pm
but they launched because jeff wanted it, but to probably broadly say no one is willing to stand up to him, i don't think that's right. i think there are good contentious discussions in some of these product meetings, but i think he's the founder. he's got an incredible record of success. and that brings a lot of credibility, and, you know, if sometimes people disagree, if he insists, it is probably going to happen. >> yeah. and looking back at bezos' track record as a product manager, there's only a few -- a handful of, you know, big projects that he was directly engaged in, right, the fire phone, alexa, maybe amazon go, the studios, but, you know, there's sort of a mixed record so far. what's his legacy as a product manager? do you think he's still like a steve jobs type of visionary? or you know -- >> without a doubt. i mean, no one's batting average is going to be a thousand. when you think about, you know,
2:51 pm
he has remade a number of industries, and, you know, it is not just e-commerce, but it is enterprise computing and aws as he had some of the original insights for that. you look at the kindle, a vision and a product he drove. it really changed book selling. and now alexa in ushering the age of voice computing. i think the jury is still out long-term how successful alexa could be, but it's certainly inspired a lot of competitive competing products. yeah, i think that it's an extraordinary record of success, and we can talk about, you know, some of the down sides because there were a lot of things that jeff created or helped to create, like the amazon marketplace that got to a certain size and then instead of being the uber product manager, he took a step back and he said you guys manage this independently. it is really profitable. it is doing great. i don't want to be that involved anymore, and it veers off course and ends up, you know, impacting and potentially hurting a lot of people. but, you know, i think the
2:52 pm
overall record as an inventor is startling, and that's not just at amazon, the turnaround at the washington post has been amazing as well. >> interesting. and i think it's maybe a good time to talk about his stepping down, maybe aws, and his successor andy jassy. maybe you can explain a little bit about who jassy is, why aws is still important to amazon for the past ten years. >> right, a lot of people over the years when we have the discussion about who might be bezos' successor, you know, first we said well, jeff bezos will be ceo forever. but if we really need to go through the exercise, it is either going to be andy jassy or jeff wilke. both of those guys and unfortunately a lot of the senior leadership up until recently has been very male at amazon. but both of those guys joined in
2:53 pm
the late 90s and helped bezos to kind of steer amazon through the dot com bust and really build it to what it is today. jeff wilke ran the consumer business. he retired last year. and andy jass si was the shadow -- andy jassy was the shadow, the chief of staff, early on in amazon's life span. he then took over this idea for aws or cloud computing. now, as some people might remember and as kind of a relic of the past, amazon for a long time was a very unprofitable company, right? it lost money and investors had a lot of patience for that. but aws was always the sparkling gem in the portfolio because the operating margins and the net income was high. this is cloud computing. it is a little difficult to understand to the layperson, but you think the company that used to have a data center in the back, walled off, humming with air-conditioning, servers there, sitting there blinking, no
2:54 pm
longer has that. their computing power is on the internet in amazon's data centers, or google, or microsoft. that's cloud computing. bezos with jassy's help conceived that in the early 2000s. it is a huge business now, 50 billion dollar run rate annually. jassy with a lot of independence from bezos has steered that. it's been a remarkable success, profit engine for amazon. jeff is now basically handing the company over to him. couple things to note is jeff is executive chairman, so he plans to remain involved. he says he wants to focus on new things. you know, for jassy, it will be he's focused on aws. it will be a home coming to the other parts of the business, the consumer parts, but my sense is that, you know, what was pivotal was last year, you probably remember the hearing in the house antitrust committee where bezos and tim cook and mark zuckerberg were required to testify, and the whole thing was
2:55 pm
a political circus, and republicans were asking about suppression of g.o.p. voices, and democrats were asking about antitrust, and bezos sat there from seattle in his office, and in my sense probably thought why am i spending my time on this? andy jassy will be in that hot seat now. he will have to answer the hard questions and jeff will go to do what he likes to do which is work on new things. >> yeah. as you mentioned jeff wilke, kind of jassy's counterpart or, you know, the other right-hand man for bezos. it felt like in your book he was less featured compared to other executives. was that intentional, or just a result of your reporting, any thoughts on the timing of his retirement which kind of coincided with this transition? >> it wasn't intentional. he was more featured in "the
2:56 pm
everything store". he was the guy who figured out how to make the warehouses work and graduates and head of the consumer business. he's certainly in there quite a bit. but you're right, there's more of a focus on some of the up and coming executives like dave clark who was wilke's protege and now running the consumer business or doug harrington who was a major force in the amazon's emergence as a grocer. wilke told bezos he wanted to step aside in early 2020 and then the pandemic hit. jeff wilke said he would stick around to help navigate amazon through it. he says he did not know that bezos was planning to step aside and anoint andy jassy as his successor. maybe he's being disingenuous and saw the writing on the wall and said okay i have lost some sort of political battle. i have no evidence of that. he just says his time at amazon
2:57 pm
was done. eugene you wrote a really good story about this in business insider, that the turnover -- amazon has always been known for having high turnover. the velocity of people moving into and out of fulfillment centers in lower ranks in the company is extreme for tech companies. they've always said the upper echelons, the loyalty and people stick around, that has changed and more people are leaving. i heard a joke, people are calling it the jexit because so many people named jeff have left, not just bezos and wilke but jeff blackburn, another senior executive, and whether that's because the stock price has gone up so high and they are enormously wealthy or is it that they see that this has become a big and somewhat unmanageable company and the bureaucracy is severe, or -- and this is a hypothetical, were they disappointed in the tabloid
2:58 pm
media of 2019 and they lost a little bit of faith? i don't know. but we have to acknowledge that, you know, the old-timers at amazon are largely moving aside, and that will be a challenge for the company because you know, it's a difficult weird idiosyncratic company to navigate and there are a lot of newcomers now in positions of influence, and so that will be interesting. >> yeah, and one of the key figures in that transition is obviously dave clark, the new retail ceo who replaced jeff wilke this year. you get into him a lot in the book. how would you describe him? he kind of comes off as he's, you know, a fiercely competitive, not afraid to throw people under the bus, you know, best man at his wedding got demoted? >> well, that's right. right. you know, someone mentioned to
2:59 pm
me that they thought it wasn't a very flattering portrait of dave clark. i sort of objected to that because at its heart it is a story of a guy who took a warehouse network of a couple dozen fulfillment centers which today -- sorry, we should step back and say dave clark for a long time ran amazon operations, right? the fulfillment centers, the distribution centers, the vans that are driving our streets, the airplanes with prime air emblazoned on the side, everything that moves packages from a to b to your front door was overseen by dave clark. and when he took the job, he's been at amazon forever, but when he took the job in 2012, there were couple dozen buildings. now there are hundreds. the whole transportation thing is happening under his watch. he helped to build it. airplanes, the success has been remarkable. so in a sense, that chapter is ask the question, you know, who is capable of building something
3:00 pm
like this? and what are the costs accrued along the way? and certainly, you know, one cost is he, you know, he -- when it came to personal relationships, the work was more important. he had a long-time friend that i read about this in the book -- that i write about this in the book, another amazon executive named arthur valdez who originally was his boss, best man at his wedding and when valdez, you know, ultimately went to target, you know, dave never talked to him again, right? which is, you know, for a lot of us is remarkable but it shows i guess how seriously, you know, they take these rivalries. another aspect i think is that they built in a very tech company way we hear about facebook move fast and break things, right? amazon in the physical world and they built this transportation capability very much like with a fedex or dhl model. they said we're not going to employ these drivers. we're going to hire contractors, put them in an amazon van, but we don't manage them because god
3:01 pm
forbid we don't want that headache or any of the union, you know, troubles that might accompany it, and what happened, you know, over the next couple of years is, you know, there were stories of packages flying into gardens and, you know, drivers spoiling people's front yards, and in some cases much worse, accidents and even deaths, and, you know, i write about that, and that was the -- at least the temporary impact of moving fast and building this transportation capability. :: >> now today and amazon is delivering 70 percent of its own packages and it gets promoting and it's running now all of amazon retail. so it is really remarkable story of innovation and the mastery of
3:02 pm
operations but in some sense the true cost when tech companies move really quickly without a lot of caution or appreciation for what some of the unanticipated consequences might be. eugene: and with clark it seems like he has a bit of a different reputation compared to trend andy jassy or wilkie where they were liked and respected in clark has more of a track record of creating enemies along the way rated ideas causing some simple find in your broken some people who i think that his nickname is diaper for firing people. with this reputation, is going to work well in this new role predict. brad: one thing that people can look at is his twitter stream
3:03 pm
because he's the unusual amazon ceo who will get up there and start trading those with people enhances ongoing think about president the ceo of fedex andy and takes a shot him and he tends to critique coverage of amazon pretty and no have you been the subject of a big tweet read he will start throwing elbows. any sort of like maybe even refreshingly kind of combative because most amazon executives will probably just gonna set up there quietly and he said when he believes read i think the reputation in a talk to a ton of amazon operation folks in putting together my portrait and even people who felt discarded or travel upon who said that his bedside manner was not good which was quite a number of people. there was no admiration may be a grudgingly and region or maybe even just for an astonishment
3:04 pm
like this guy, bill this huge network, he has fulfilled jeff bezos dream and it controlling the amazon package from the fulfillment center to the customers front door. and with that allows us so much control of the customer experience and when you see amazon say your package will be different nine - 11 and then the follow-up e-mail maybe will say we are delighted that is going to be sometime early afternoon and that is because amazon controls its supply chain. like that could not have happened ten years ago. when amazon moves it will move from today delivery to one day delivery for prime members and then the pandemic had instead of, they go back to the today delivery, these are possible because of what clark did. so is a portrait of an effective executive who is harsh and unrelenting and that is allowed him to make the harsh and unrelenting goals of his boss. the founder of the company.
3:05 pm
eugene: nothing will be interesting to see how he plays with andy jassy and they like this is completely different dynamics compared to jeff bezos and andy jassy. sue and i think you are right in there such a natural impulse like everyone wants to be and probably thinks that they can continue to do their old job in addition to the new job. so andy jassy gives him room to run in aws, so will jeff bezos give andy jassy the room to be ceo and then with dave harkey, he is now the boss of some of his former prayers. will doug harrington or any of the other executives read divisions like advertising and devices business and the alexis business. one of their peers another boss,
3:06 pm
that can create an uncomfortable dynamic as well. eugene: i think we should spend some time talking about donald trump. he's clearly big piece of amazon's narrative over the past four or five years. this mutual animosity between jeff bezos and trump and you get into it a lot in the book. wasn't a good thing that this happened or was jeff bezos fault for or did he lose anything or not fostering a better relationship with trump. what is the assessment. brad: those are really good questions and i think once i finish the book i thought that i might've thought that jeff bezos, that he got up on the wrong foot and i have these e-mails in the book. scene of 2015, donald trump is
3:07 pm
campaigning to be president and he's taken shots and everyone and it jeff bezos enters with an e-mail that says basically send donald to space, like were saving the rocket for him predict in kearny and some other pr executives and amazon were asking jeff not to send those e-mails. any sort of insisted it and not know if he was just being protective is post, or maybe it was a little bit of ego there like everyone else's getting into it with the sky and i want my turn as well taking a shot at him. and then trump one. and seems like a lifetime ago i guess it was five years ago pretty date and jeff bezos get hammered. he probably would've gotten hammered anyway. but the post does a great job covering the trump administration with the ramifications of that bitterness are that amazon loses the jedi contract, $10 billion that was a hugely up. in the portion of the cloud
3:08 pm
business that caters the government and public institutions. huge problems with the post office. and a lot of publicity around house bitterness towards the post and jeff bezos in particular and a lot of what trump wanted to do never happened like you know, he talked about raising corporate taxes and that is why amazon is paying so few taxes. they made ridiculous claims about the post being a lobbyist for amazon now that was true. so recently, the judge in the jedi case ruled that amazon general could be able to continue to protest the decision which was microsoft and raising the possibility that goes back and rethink that whole process. so is possible now with a space a little bit of time in reflection that amazon and jeff bezos do not lose much in terms of their ongoing fight with the
3:09 pm
trump administration. i'm probably would've preferred to be able to fly a little bit under the radar but i think with just ownership of the washington post, that was probably going to be impossible. eugene: i think that whole e-mail threat between jeff bezos and carney and how to respond to trump, that was my personal favorite part of the book. so that was very good. how unusual is this like her business leader, have like a very public tension with a sitting president. you know, there has to have had some intel discussions on houses going down the business or the response to this. anything else. sue and i suspect is not unusual for the owners, and catherine graham, famously tangled with the administration predict this
3:10 pm
is something that jeff bezos took on in 201320 but the post. we can ♪ ♪ as for years of trump and estate amazon and an extraordinary rate of growth. and talk about one of the most for tile almost in history for the american business and part of that was the pandemic in the last year of the trump administration but, certainly doesn't seem to have slowed amazon down at all. and you can argue perversely probably that trump bundling and mismanagement of the pandemic, which arguably extended it, helped amazon because the pandemic has been almost a grotesque boost to his bottom line in a time when people were scared of shopping in stores. eugene: and since you bring up the washington post, and you dedicate a whole chapter on that topic. i'm still trying to understand
3:11 pm
why jeff bezos bought the washington post. maybe he really believes the good press but at the same time, for somebody who believes in this, he is very unfriendly to the press. brad: is not a funny little paradigm. what is the true reason for this and why does he want to go back rated well, i mean, first of all there was circumstance, don graham was looking to sell the washington post in 2013 and the paper was in kind of a perpetual decline they do not have the finances to truly make it a national newspaper. and he went out looking for a savior any interpersonal relationship with jeff bezos so a lot of it was simply circumstance. yes, i think that jeff appreciated and saw the post and is an opportunity for what it was maybe the back of his mind, on about the influence and having the post and future
3:12 pm
trajectory, that would be a date. i also think that public comes out of the book that one of his talents, one of his interest income just venture, is creating a system of project and what are the meanings and papers and rituals that can encourage businesses to do things and to grow rated he had been very successful craig invention it amazon but not all - but i think with the post he saw the kind of a broken institution and what he could come in kind of work his magic of the documents, the meetings, bring me new things. and applied his thinking to a really valuable american institution and help turn it around. and he has done that. the renaissance of the post pretty and out soon his successor maybe even by the time this is aired, has been remarkable. and jeff bezos and inventions really worked well there. eugene: we could talk a little
3:13 pm
bit about hollywood. i think in your book, make clear that jeff bezos relish limelight, there is a part where mckinsey was having a good time at these parties but jeff bezos was having a great time. was this a good decision on jeff bezos like that he ultimately led to a lot of personal issues and you know tabloid and all of the stuff. the moving to hollywood kind of instigated that. what are you thoughts predict. brad: i think it's easier to look at these things, not to look back and asked, the big question of why did jeff bezos go to hollywood. why is amazon going into the shows were to follow the chain of events. really quickly, so amazon biggest category of sales in the 2000 is media, books movies and
3:14 pm
music. music because way because of the iconic, and the itunes and now on music, they see that in the rush up for the kindle to make sure it doesn't happen in the books pretty will dvd sales are going down. right, there was a 20 year printed netflix is rising so what is amazon, creates a video store where you can download movies and tv shows. no model start afraid now it is streaming it and you have to pay billions of dollars to license seinfeld or in that competitive netflix and amazon are competing to do that. they're enriching the movie studios honey get out of this battle for this paying for content, you make your own. it is cheaper and this is going back to the days of hbo and showtime, and it is cheaper and more effective and you were hold on your customers when you make your own programs instead of just licensing 2000 pretty so
3:15 pm
amazon gets into the business read and has jeff bezos loves it to be surrounded by celebrities and he is the parties with ben affleck and and here's the crazy think. you have a big test. and every one is orbiting around him because in 2015 and 2016, is one of the wealthiest people in the world. he is an icon and steve jobs has passed away and he represent american innovation and ingenuity and no, he has human and i think he really enjoyed that read and you make the point that we don't know if it contributed to the end of their marriage but certainly mckinsey did not seem to enjoy it has much. jeff loved going to the were chosen jimmy was making fun of him and he loves it and he is laughing. so not only was a strategic and aligned nicely with his personal nest, science fiction, fantasy. they found the lord of the rings and who knows that will be good or not.
3:16 pm
but he loves the attention and his eyes start to open up along with all of these other things in the post into this larger world and beyond amazon. in the last really good thing about this is was also smart to bundle linden as a benefit for prime members. we think today premised on the shipping, or today or monday shipping, there's a fulfillment center outside of san francisco the probably get that stuff fast one or two days anyway. so jeff bezos brings prime video into the bundle of amazon perks and all sorts of other things in amazon music and photos. not competing head-to-head with networks anymore. prime video, you must think of it as free but is bundled into that $119 annual prime membership. and amazon has a seat at the table this revolution a media id was very smart and strategic. and all sorts of benefits for
3:17 pm
jeff bezos in his personal life as well. eugene: can bring a lot of characters to life in this book. people that i've only read about in one of the interesting executives was harrington. here is a marketplace and deals with the sellers. and i think this internal report, that you found it titled amazon's futuristic craft hand harrington kind of urges the executive teams to look into selling groceries and kind of inspired jeff bezos to them and ultimately buying whole foods. and i thought that it was really interesting that jeff bezos said this one really made me think. so can you talk about that whole process. brad: solomon give a little bit of context. the paper you are talking about is that an executive retreat maybe i think as well and this is another mechanism and jeff
3:18 pm
bezos system of invention, all requiring to bring papers pitching an idea and then they all sit there in silence reading it and then afterwards jeff picks up amazon's futuristic craft and said this one made me think. well summer history, doug comes from the famous .com flame out of the trying to deliver groceries, it went the business endeavor but he always thought the deal was good. i join amazon and started amazon fresh in 2007 and has limped along for a couple of years and jeff bezos never really invested in it. he thought of the things like alexa the fire, and china and india were more important. so then 2012, doug read this paper argues that the voice of christ that people are buying things from amazon once a week, once every other week. but walmart, or kroger, they're going there multiple times a
3:19 pm
week to buy food. the customer relationship even though it's unprofitable, you can't realize a profit or very low margin craft, praise a strong part of the customer and those retailers ever get into the amazon business figure out how to do e-commerce, could be dangerous instructive. and jeff said this made me think any can authorize more vicious investments, larger investment and more vicious project groceries. so they expand amazon fresh doesn't quite work. they try prime now, kind of a two hour delivery service in new york. and expands but my sense it always lost money and they introduced the god's word and because your list grocery store. going on a journey. they jeff bezos thanks of kind of long-term opportunities in the always thought groceries was more long-term opportunity. the couple things happen, google
3:20 pm
express and st card and give very popular. and finally he realizes this is when russian he is to get serious about it whole foods and 20-something was in trouble and be attacked by investors and then they went to that purchase. and now amazon is opening up its own supermarkets all over the place. and partly thanks to the pandemic it, online grocery shopping really has come hot. it just by virtue of experience, more wondrous at webb and was pretty integral in having amazon kind get the religion and catch up in that category. eugene: on top spent some time on blue this work jeff bezos is what is spent a lot of his time going forward apparently. you know, it sounds like place on the roof, there were hiccups or mismanagement. some rivalry with elon musk,
3:21 pm
jealousy played into it. what is a track record. brad: so far come they don't have a lot to show for it, jeff is investing or he is billion dollars in amazon stock every year pretty he's investing a lot of that into blue origin. twenty -year-old company and they have not met any of their goals yet. we are speaking during the week when blue origin might start selling tickets tonight shepherd, the sub orbital spacecraft meanwhile space x is launching rockets into orbit to the international space station. seemingly every week. and yeah, i think to put it safely, jeff that he could go slow. he said be the tour is not the hair, step-by-step ferociously. that is the auto a blue origin and when you're interpreted guy at the table and have a whole
3:22 pm
strategy, that strategy sometimes blown up with the ambitious maybe reckless guy shows up. i started betting on everything. elon shows up, he skips the or result to go into orbit with his rockets. i worked in the government start to basically paying him to giving him these big contracts. to build this company and jeff is personally funding it. i don't know it's josie but i do think that rivalry is an accurate work. please replace putting all of this money in the longest getting paid to practice and so he changes the orientation of a blue origin start hiring a lot more people and start setting ambitious goals. and set up step-by-step firstly a lot of overlapping initiative and i do think that in my sense isn't i think this is in the book that is really helped to feed a little bit of the functional culture and they're still trying to figure it out. maybe later this year they will start sending tourists into
3:23 pm
suborbital space and will be a tremendous triumph and success so far don't think has a lot to show for it. eugene: before we run out of time, this will last question but, what is jeff bezos legacy since he is stepping down. you still going to be engaged, is not retiring but i will history remember jeff bezos is amazon's ceo. brad: is a good one eugene. i think that a lot of it might actually yet to play out. i think that we will see some kind of antitrust case kids and amazon in the years ahead, think that we will see a regulation of governance trying to grapple with some of the paradoxes of
3:24 pm
the amazon model the fact that it is a platform for sellers and the seller that the fact that sells private label products in competition with sometimes using the data of some of his independent sellers. stories are sellers there telling you, not uniformly gutted. there's a lot of confirmation there. we look back and rockefeller and you know, discolored a bit by the government action. let's acknowledge that and say, will the legacy, is still not yet completed predict and i might have some extracts next to it but we will put that aside and say, jeff credit and say it is likely with the passage of time, that a lot of the negativity is going to fade and it will be about someone who revolutionizes business in the span of 20 years building company has change the world with a, not just on shopping but
3:25 pm
reading and voice computing and enterprise computing in the way governments operate and companies and research institutions read can really do think the only comparison with steve jobs in terms of the number of industries has changed. he knows, he might end up doing more perspective space and blue origin, that would be a tremendous accomplishment that company is successful but i think that is an innovator is a business builder, there's lots of room to criticize jeff and amazon and those respects, i thank you so one of the great business leaders of our time. eugene: right, i think that is all of the questions i have thank you again for your time appreciate it a lot a lot in this great book. looking forward to having more
3:26 pm
conversation. brad: thank you eugene and it's good to talk to you. >> weekdays on "c-span2" intellectual fees, every saturday you find events on american history tv on sundays, book tv brings you the latest nonfiction books and authors. this television for serious readers. discover and learn and explore. weekends on "c-span2" ♪ ♪ ♪♪ ♪ ♪♪ >> tonight tv, surely author the book recognizing other biographies and we will talk with former congresswoman jean harmon about her book, arguing that the united states difficult national security problems also conversation with the other of the book, breaking the news and exposing the establishment in the hidden deals in the secret corruption. a book tv, tonight starting at
3:27 pm
8:00 p.m. eastern on "c-span2". >> saturday, on the communicators. >> they been attacking big tech from all source of angles antitrust his heart of just one of them. but they have both pulled you need. [inaudible]. we need to use more antitrust enforcement. but they built on a very different reason for doing so even though they sort of on the same solutions printed from the democrats to be rooted in a sort of very typical for the democrats and animosity towards the state businesses in general and nepotism about corporations in general and the need to shrink them down to size. and for republicans, really ties to the sort of cultural war against technology companies in general were they proceeded them as being biased against conservative efforts in the way that they write content.
3:28 pm
and so the question is the big tech is really tied to the general sort of feeling that tech companies are out to get that pretty. >> watch the communicators with magazines elisabeth nolan brown recent article, the bipartisan antitrust against big attack greatest saturday at 6:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. c-span shop .org, online store, is a collection of cspan products, browse to see what is new. you purchase will support our nonprofit operations and you still have time to order a congressional directory the contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. go c-span shop .org. next missouri republican senator sen. josh hawley gets his thoughts on social media and tech companies have on free speech written a book about it, "the tyranny of big tech". interviewed by the washington

27 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on