On Friday, Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in cash.
The deal is the largest in Amazon’s history, but far from its first. In the nearly 23 years since it was founded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon has acquired more than 70 companies of all shapes and sizes.
An interesting story from 2014 in Dallas’ D Magazine profiles Matt Rutledge, who sold his daily-deals e-commerce company Woot to Amazon for $110 million in 2010. In it, Rutledge shares the story of his first meeting with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after the deal was signed.
Not only does the anecdote reveal that Bezos is lousy at small talk, but it proves something about the way he thinks about business and Amazon’s acquisition strategy.
Rutledge flew in from Dallas on a Sunday night to go out to breakfast with Bezos in Seattle on Monday morning. He had signed a contract to stay with Amazon for the next three years and thought the meeting was going to be about Bezos bringing him into his inner ranks.
Instead, the meeting ended up being awkward. Bezos didn’t seem to have any real agenda, even though Rutledge had traveled far to meet with him.
Bezos had ordered an exotic meal: Mediterranean octopus prepared with potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and a poached egg. When Rutledge asked Bezos why he had decided to buy Woot, Bezos paused for “several painful seconds” before answering.
“You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast,” Bezos said. “When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.”
About two years after Woot’s acquisition by Amazon and that breakfast meeting, Rutledge left the company before his contract was up. The pressures of operating under and reporting to Amazon had started changing Woot’s fundamental style, and Rutledge wanted to get out. Amazon bought Woot because Bezos didn’t understand it and thought it was exciting, but instead of embracing Woot’s style and learning from it, Amazon made it change.
Cue the chilling line from D Magazine’s Tim Rogers: “Before it can be eaten, generally, the breakfast octopus must be killed.”
Read the rest of the great D Magazine story here.
Jillian D’Onfro contributed to an earlier version of this story.
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