- Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post in 2013, was once wary of wading into the Washington, DC, limelight.
- But the Amazon CEO now embraces Washington and sees himself as the successor to the former Post publisher Katherine Graham, according to the Washingtonian.
- Insiders who spoke with the magazine point to the Jason Rezaian incident as the turning point.
- Bezos’ embrace of DC life could have implications for where Amazon’s second headquarters eventually lands, but by how much is anyone’s guess.
Jeff Bezos was once wary of Washington, DC.
The Amazon CEO, who bought The Washington Post in 2013, didn’t see himself as a fixture in the city.
“At the beginning, he was more reticent about being in Washington, about being involved in these kinds of things, and wasn’t really that interested in injecting himself in it,” an acquaintance of Bezos told the Washingtonian magazine for part of a profile on Bezos’ relationship to the capital.
In fact, it took an email by Bob Woodward, the former Post reporter made famous by helping to expose the Watergate scandal, to convince him he should attend the longtime Post editor Ben Bradlee’s funeral in 2014, the magazine reported.
Since then, however, his thinking appears to have shifted. The Washingtonian suggested the biggest incident that changed his mind happened in 2016, when Jason Rezaian, a Post journalist reporting in Iran, was taken prisoner and charged with espionage. After being held in the country for 18 months, he was released.
Bezos took his personal jet to an American military base in Germany to pick up Rezaian. The cabin was decorated with #freejason streamers. He instructed his pilot to take Rezaian and his wife anywhere in the world.
“The Jason Rezaian experience really was an inflection point for him,”an acquaintance told the Washingtonian.
Bezos was treated to a round of applause when he arrived back at Post headquarters.
Since then, Bezos has upped the amount of time he spends in Washington. He still lives mostly in Washington state, in Seattle, but he flies to the district often. In 2016, he bought the largest home in the city for $US26 million – a 27,000-square-foot mansion in the well-heeled Kalorama section.
According to the blueprints obtained by the Washingtonian in a Freedom of Information Act request, half the home is for personal use and the other half is being turned into a haven for entertaining, with landscaped grounds, a large ballroom, and a commercial-style bathroom with six stalls.
“What he’s going to do is revive the legacy of Kay Graham and her great socialising – bringing smart, interesting people together in a social context,” Jean Case, a friend of Bezos since the 1990s, told the Washingtonian.
Another friend told the magazine that Bezos had become attracted to Washington, DC, “like a moth to light.”
Will Bezos digging his heels into the district provide any kind of glimpse at where Amazon’s HQ2 may land? Perhaps, but maybe not.
According to Washingtonian, Bezos rarely steps into Amazon’s Washington, DC, office, the site of its lobbying arm, instead busying himself with work related to The Post or his rocket venture, Blue Origin.
Still, a second headquarters could give Bezos another big reason to visit the city to which he’s grown accustomed. Throwing in the $US5 billion investment and 50,000 new workers HQ2 promises to bring could either give Bezos more levers to pull, or complicate his social endeavours.
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