Billionaire investor Sam Zell calls congressman’s argument about Amazon’s New York HQ2 deal a ‘crock of s—‘ in a hot-mic moment

Sam Zell. John Lamparski/Getty Images
  • The billionaire real-estate investor Sam Zell wasn’t buying New York Rep. Gregory Meeks’ arguments in a Wednesday CNBC interview about the need to negotiate with Amazon to bring back its plan for a New York headquarters, known as HQ2.
  • Meeks said that New York wanted to negotiate with Amazon to ensure the HQ2 deal would benefit minority communities in the area and that the city and the state should be “inclusive in any deals.”
  • “What a crock of s—,” Zell could be heard replying off-camera.

The billionaire real-estate investor Sam Zell wasn’t buying New York Rep. Gregory Meeks’ argument about negotiations over Amazon’s abandoned plan to place its second headquarters,known as HQ2, in New York City, apparently describing the lawmaker’s call for a more “inclusive” process as a “crock of s—.”

During an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Meeks, whose district borders the area in Queens where Amazon planned to place HQ2, said most elected officials in New York wanted the e-commerce giant to come to the city.

Meeks also argued that the pushback that led Amazon to pull the plug on the New York headquarters was from a small group of city and state lawmakers and that most also wanted to negotiate with Amazon to ensure that minority communities in the area benefitted from the project.

Zell did not buy the argument.

“I just think, Congressman Meeks, that what you’re describing is tyranny of the minority,” Zell said during the segment. “I think this deal with Amazon is going to go down in history as one of the great mistakes that politicians made in their own interest and disregarding the interest of the state of New York.”

Supporters of the deal have bemoaned the missed tax revenue and economic boost that Amazon’s HQ2 could have provided. A study commissioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office estimated that the 25,000 jobs the tech giant said it would have brought could have produced an additional $US27.5 billion in city and state tax revenue over 10 years.

Read more:
Amazon’s HQ2 deal with New York is officially off – and it means the state and the city could lose out on $US27.5 billion in tax revenue

Zell went on to say that New York lawmakers’ desire to renegotiate the deal made it untenable for Amazon to move forward with the HQ2 plan. Many who opposed HQ2 expressed scepticism of the roughly $US3 billion in tax incentives offered to Amazon, as well as frustration that the deal would not be eligible for review by the City Council.

Meeks said that many elected officials – including the governor, the New York City mayor, and US House members representing the district – supported the deal, adding, “We need to be inclusive in any deals, though.”

Before CNBC cut to a commercial break, Zell could be heard responding off-camera to Meeks’ comment.

“What a crock of s—,” Zell said.

Meeks blasted Zell in a tweet after the segment, saying the real-estate mogul should explain what he meant by the remark.

“Sam Zell should explain what about minority inclusion in economic development is a ‘crock of s—‘, and why city’s like NY and Chicago shouldn’t bake those requirements into tax incentives,” Meeks tweeted, along with a clip of the moment. “This is what women and people of colour deal with in the corporate board rooms daily.”

Meeks was one of dozens of New York politicians and community leaders who signed an open letter asking Amazon to reconsider its decision not to move forward with the HQ2 project.