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Bradley Tusk: Incompetence and Arrogance To Blame For Failed Amazon Deal

February 15, 2019

By Brian Henry

Bradley Tusk, the founder and CEO of Tusk Strategies and former campaign manager of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, knows exactly why Amazon's HQ2 plans in New York City fell apart.

"It's not that we didn't get it because of some geopolitical economic trend or something out of our control. We didn't get it because our own politicians and Amazon themselves were too incompetent and too arrogant and too tone deaf to get it right," Tusk told Cheddar.

Tusk said one of Amazon's biggest mistakes was to presume that New Yorkers would immediately embrace the tech giant.

"Fundamentally, what really happened was that Amazon just misunderstood the politics," he said. "They didn't do their homework, they didn't do their facts on the ground. They made this very naive assumption that New York is no different than Indianapolis or Phoenix or San Diego and they didn't adjust their strategy. New York is very different, New York didn't feel the need to have Amazon here, and Amazon couldn't adjust to that at all. The relationship started out on a bad note and it never got better."

Tusk also faulted Amazon ($AMZN) for not realizing its anti union policy would not align with New York's local politics.

"New York City politically is very controlled by a handful of unions. That's true of the NYC council, Mayor De Blasio, the state legislature and Governor Cuomo. From a business standpoint, Amazon says, 'we don't want unionization,' that makes total sense," Tusk said. "But they picked New York knowing what New York was and to not have anticipated that this issue was going to come up and be prepared to deal with it, that's just political malpractice."

After Amazon officially pulled out of the deal ー which promised 25,000 jobs in exchange for nearly $3 billion in tax incentives ー Mayor Bill De Blasio accused Amazon of throwing away a major business opportunity, tweeting, "you have to be tough to make it in New York City."

Tusk said the matter isn't that simple.

"While Amazon is probably the most to blame for this debacle, Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio are not far behind. They completely misread the politics, they didn't do any of their homework, either. They did a terrible job lining up support. They didn't use their political capital correctly. So De Blasio is trying to now act like none of this is his fault or responsibility, which is pretty typical of how De Blasio operates as mayor in general. But it's as much his fault as anyone's."

Tusk, however, remains fairly optimistic about the future of tech in New York, but he admitted that losing 25,000 jobs is a major setback for the city.

"I still think that tech will want to be here simply because the amount of human capital, the amount of talent in New York City is unsurpassed, and therefore, people are going to want to be here. That's why Amazon wanted to be."

For full interview click here.