Friday, February 21, 2020

Jeff Bezos’s Reputation

He’s buying mansions like the rest of us buy sneakers. He’s buying a newspaper, getting muscled upgetting divorced, getting hacked, embracing philanthropy — it seems he’s experiencing a rebirth and finally relishing the fruits of his labor. He’s unleashed and loving it.

In the past, he’s picked his public opportunities slowly and strategically. Indeed, Amazon PR is famous for being laconic. But in recent years, Jeff Bezos is everywhere: Sporting a super-expensive bathing suit that then sold out. Mingling with celebs in Hollywood. Posing with a sexy new girlfriend. The way he picks his opportunities, each one becomes news. And the more publicity he draws, the less mysterious and the more likable he becomes.

What little we know about the Everything Store and its founder CEO is the stuff of corporate lore. The two-pizza rule. The PowerPoint prohibition. The keep-it-instead-of-return-it policy.

Yet Amazon has also recently come under fire for a cornucopia of issues. It’s being investigated for antitrust violations around the world. Its warehouses skimp on air conditioning even as workers’ every minute is monitored for efficiency. Its outsourced drivers are urinating in their vans and killing pedestrians. It’s suing the Defense Department. It’s become a magnet for counterfeit products.

So, it’s possible that Bezos’s heightened profile derives from a simple cost-benefit analysis: The more good ink he generates, the less that people will fixate on Amazon’s bad ink. After all, he’s one of the few founders who’s still the C.E.O. of his now-publicly traded company, so his personal affairs are closely associated with his professional ones.

On the other hand, maybe he just likes the attention. Maybe, as the world’s richest person, he’s realized that he can do what he wants, when he wants. More power to you, Jeff.

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