Feb 14, 2019

Axios PM

Happy Valentine's Day: Share some love with everyone in your life, and have a wonderful evening.

Situational awareness: “The U.S. government and Facebook are negotiating a record, multibillion-dollar fine for the company’s privacy lapses,” WashPost reports.

1 big thing: Why Amazon pulled the plug

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Amazon has spent the past two decades conquering the world, but today it beat a stunning retreat from the New York City leg of its HQ2 expansion.

Why it matters: The optics are terrible for Amazon. It dangled 50,000 jobs as a life-preserver for America’s mid-sized cities, then picked the D.C. area and NYC for the bulk of the winnings, only to balk at the prospect of not getting its full incentives package.

  • The NYC deal was built — with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — to avoid almost all scrutiny from other elected officials, Axios' David McCabe notes.
  • But it turns out one of the world's most valuable companies would rather fold than continue confronting the aggressive backlash from the city's community activists and municipal officials.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with Amazon’s deliberations told McCabe that serious conversations about pulling back on its New York plans started in the last two weeks, sometime after a second contentious City Council hearing with its executives.

  • The source said that another key moment in the company’s decision came when New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a critic of the deal, was nominated to a board in early February that would have had to have approved the project.
  • News that its commitment to New York was wavering broke in the press last week.
  • Amazon’s leadership made the final call to back off the project on Wednesday night, the source said.
  • Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary and Amazon’s top policy executive, called Cuomo and de Blasio this morning to deliver the news. The company went public hours later.

Coming later today: Axios' Erica Pandey is on the ground with NYC residents on how the decision has induced whiplash for locals.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

A woman picks roses inside a greenhouse at Wildfire Flowers on February 13, 2019 in Naivasha, Kenya.

  • Kenya’s floriculture industry earned more than $800 million in 2017, providing employment to over 100,000 people in the country, according to industry data.
2. What you missed
  1. President Trump intends to sign the spending bill while declaring a national emergency in order to get additional funding for his border wall. Go deeper.
  2. Just hours after Amazon bailed on New York City, General Electric confirmed that it will scale back plans for a new headquarters in Boston. Go deeper.
  3. The Senate has confirmed Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr, who will oversee the Mueller investigation. Go deeper.
  4. Coffee Meets Bagel, a popular dating app, announced today that an unauthorized party gained access earlier this week to a "partial list" of user details, including names and email addresses. Go deeper.
  5. Levi Strauss & Co., the San Francisco-based jeans-maker, filed for a $100 million IPO, with the WSJ reporting that Levi's plans to raise over $600 million at a valuation north of $3 billion. Go deeper.
  6. P.S. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe calls Trump "a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants" in his new book "The Threat." Go deeper.
3. 1 💕 thing

"There’s a War Raging Over Valentine’s Day Profits: Necco, the maker of Sweethearts, is gone. So everyone else with a cute phrase is fighting for your Valentine’s Day dollar," Bloomberg reports.

  • "When the New England Confectionery Co. abruptly closed its doors last year, howls over the demise of its namesake Necco wafer echoed across the candy aisle. Perhaps worse, its iconic Valentine’s Day treat—the Sweetheart ... looked like it was going to vanish as well."
  • "But the panic was misplaced. Plenty of other companies have been making these heart-shaped sugar bombs for decades. And the end of Necco made for a big opening in the market."

Dig in.