retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Forget about all the millions of dollars that he embezzled from unwitting investors. Forget about the fact that his illegal machinations led to the fact that the New York Mets apparently been unable to spend free agent money like an A-market team for years.

There also is something else we can blame on Bernie Madoff:

Amazon.

The story is in the Washingtonian, which writes about Jeff Bezos and how he’s had an expanded presence in Washington, DC, related both to his leadership of Amazon and personal ownership of the Washington Post. Buried in the story is this anecdote:

“In one sense, Washington helped shape Amazon from its beginning. In 1994, Bezos decided to leave D.E. Shaw, the rock-star hedge fund in New York where he’d cut a reputation as a fierce businessman, in order to open an online bookstore that might, one day, sell virtually anything. He and MacKenzie packed up their place in New York and set out on a cross-country journey that would land them somewhere in Seattle. The now-famous trek is part of Amazon’s creation story.

But before that trip west, Bezos drove south, eventually parking his car in a lot along Waxpool Road in Sterling: the headquarters of AOL.

“After some time sitting alone in an empty conference room, Bezos was greeted by Ted Leonsis, then the company’s president. ‘They said, ‘This is Jeff Bezos,’ and I didn’t really know who he was,’ recalls Leonsis, who now owns the Washington Capitals and the Wizards. ‘He told me he wanted to launch the largest bookseller in the world.’ The men chewed over Bezos’s idea and discussed ways the start-up and the internet giant might collaborate.

“Leonsis would go on to become a sounding board for Bezos, who later relayed one of the reasons he’d left Wall Street: ‘He said, ‘I had a competitor who was kicking my ass,’’ Leonsis remembers. The prodigious rival: Bernie Madoff. ‘So,’ Bezos cracked to Leonsis, ‘no Bernie Madoff, no Amazon’.”

Now that’s what I call an Eye-Opener.
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