ALBANY – Did Jeff Bezos’ highly publicized divorce and extramarital affair influence Amazon’s decision to drop plans for a second headquarters in New York City last month?
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hinted as much during an appearance Friday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“I think we could all say that unusual things were happening within the Amazon family at that moment in time, and that was said politely,” de Blasio said. “There was clearly some unusual factors happening.”
Amazon announced Feb. 14 it was backing out of plans for a headquarters in Queens amid local opposition, union backlash and protests over $3 billion in public subsidies the online-retail giant would have received if it produced its promised 25,000 jobs or more.
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The decision was abrupt and shocked de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who both led the negotiations to land Amazon.
A month earlier, Bezos announced he and his wife were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, and the National Enquirer published photos and texts showing him in an extramarital affair with a former news anchor.
MSNBC contributor Noah Rothman followed up after de Blasio’s initial comments and asked if the Democratic mayor thought the affair had something to do with Amazon’s decision.
“I only am saying it was an unusual environment,” de Blasio responded.
Then host Willie Geist pressed de Blasio again.
“It means that a deal was struck and that deal was moving forward for weeks and weeks and weeks,” the mayor said. “No one discussed anything changing. I want to be clear about this.”
Soon after, Geist went back to de Blasio’s comments, asking, “Mr. Mayor, you floated something out that we’ve got to pin you down on – you believe Jeff Bezos’ affair somehow…”
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The mayor responded, “No, I didn’t say that. I said it was an unusual environment meaning there are a lot of cross pressures. There was a lot of things going on.”
“Like what?,” Geist said.
“I, again, you’re going to figure out yourself,” de Blasio countered.
Pressing de Blasio
Geist later got back to the issue during the interview, saying, “You believe that part of the reason perhaps this deal unraveled is because of what was happening internally at Amazon?”
And de Blasio said, “There was a lot of turmoil. There was a lot of turmoil, let’s just put it in…”
He added, “A decision was made in a very arbitrary fashion.”
Amazon declined comment on the mayor’s remarks. The company has maintained local opposition scuttled the deal.
“For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term,” the company said at the time.