Jeff Bezos, press-shy billionaire, to face the harsh headlines of Congress

Bezos talks to media in September, 2019 in Washington DC on Amazon’s sustainability efforts.

Eric Baradat / AFP / Getty Images

After escaping public view, Jeff Bezos is being pushed to a high-profile platform: Congress

Bezos reluctantly appeared before the House of Representatives subcommittee Wednesday to examine the power of large tech companies – along with three other tech CEOs – Apple’s Tim Cook, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The hearing, which will be Bezos’ first film in front of MPs, is part of a 13-month investigation Opposition Subcommittee of the House In technology platforms. It is part of an antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, the State Attorney General and the European Union.

Bezos’ involvement comes despite his famous opposition to speaking publicly, instead allowing his lieutenant to defend his company on Twitter, in hearings and in TV interviews. The CEO of Amazon has carefully managed some events in which he has participated, ensuring the child’s glove treatment. However, the Congress will be very difficult to handle. Politicians are often more interested in point-scoring than fact-finding. Bezos will have to do a quick study.

Despite the company’s power and his personal wealth – he is the richest man in the world – Bezos will join the inquiry as a newcomer. Other CEOs have held congressional demonstrations; The youngest Zuckerberg has scored three, while Cook and Pichai have scored one each.

There is no question that Amazon is the king of its corner of the Internet. Governments and regulators worry that its dominance may prevent squash competition, narrow options and innovation. Some lawmakers have called for breaking the Amazon. Those issues may also come up during the hearing, as well as issues with Amazon’s poor treatment of warehouse employees.

“How do we structure the online market? How do we control the online market in ways that ensure open and fair competition?” Stacey Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a longtime critic of Amazon. “I am looking for those answers for less and for members of Congress and ultimately for the American people.”

Amazon declined to comment for this story.

Making inquiries would be to focus almost exclusively on Amazon’s private label business, in which the retailer sells its own versions of batteries, diapers and snacks on its website. Members of the House have expressed concern Amazon can benefit from wrong Both are operating their own platform and being a seller on it, possibly directing consumers to their own products and away from independent merchants on their site.

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Elected officials worry that Amazon uses the internal sales information of these short sellers to offer their own branded goods against them. This strongest evidence comes from an April story in The Wall Street Journal, which reported Amazon private-label workers were pulling data To decide what products to launch. Amazon has said that such action is against its policies and has started investigating these claims. The company has not provided any update on the investigation.

Bezos was called to testify after the journal story, and he initially opposed the requests. The company offered to send someone else to speak on its behalf. David Cicillin, chairman of the subcommittee Amazon boss threatened to sub. Bezos confided.

Bezos has been press-shy for years. He has carefully cultivated a public personality as a space- and science-loving visionary, a type of uber-nerd besides the industry titan. He was out of his turtle shell only last year, when A. High-profile divorce, Extramarital affair and blackmail conspiracy Deleted image A seemingly stable and quiet private life.

Since then, Bezos has been seen more frequently in tabloids. But he has not changed his approach to the press. In public, Bezos is usually stuck to talk. He rarely riffs. Do not expect anything different at the hearing. Gaffas are less likely.

He has been in a friendly setting when he has given interviews, such as the casual chat in which he attended his company’s re-MARS conference. His conversational partner: an Amazon employee. There was very little chance that the interview would be flawed (although an animal rights guard temporarily interrupted it). His last major interview with a journalist was with Wired’s Steven Levy in 2018, but the piece focused on Bezos’ space-exploration efforts with his Blue Origin startup.

When he talks in public, Bezos doesn’t often discuss Amazon. He used major public appearances last year to reveal Blue Origin Moon Lander And a new program Pledge of climate, Both in Washington DC. He did not question reporters at the Blue Origin event or the: MARS.

Nevertheless, Bezos has shown that he can handle himself in a challenging setting, which is sure to be the Antitrust Subcommittee. Six years ago, he agreed in an interview Henry Blodget of Business Insider. The Amazon boss would have expected the blog to be easy on him; Bezos was an investor in the publication. But when asked about the e-retailer’s out-of-control costs, Blogget turned his back on the CEO. Bezos defended his positions a lot.

Now we will see if he can do the same with the Congress.

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