Billionaire investor Sam Zell calls congressman's argument about Amazon's HQ2 move to New York City a 'crock of s---' in a hot mic moment

sam zellBillionaire investor Sam ZellJohn Lamparski/Getty Images

  • Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell was not buying New York Rep. Gregory Meeks arguments about the need to negotiate with Amazon to bring back its plan for a New York headquarters, known as HQ2.
  • Meeks, a long-time supporter of the deal, said during an interview with CNBC that New York wanted to negotiate with Amazon to ensure that an HQ2 deal would benefit minority communities in the area, and that the city and state should be "inclusive in any deals."
  • "What a crock of s---," Zell replied off-camera.

Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell wasn't buying New York Rep. Gregory Meeks argument about negotiations over Amazon's now-abandoned plans to place its second headquarters, known as HQ2, in New York City, calling the lawmaker's call for a more "inclusive"process a "crock of s---."

During an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Meeks - whose district borders the area where Amazon planned to place HQ2 - maintained that most elected officials in New York wanted the ecommerce giant to come to New York City.

Meeks also argued that the pushback that ultimately led to Amazon's decision to pull the plug on the New York City headquarters was from a small group of lawmakers at the city and state level, and most pro-Amazon lawmakers also simply wanted to negotiate with Amazon to ensure that minorities in the area benefitted from the project.

Zell did not buy the argument.

"I think Congressman Meeks, what you're describing is tyranny of the minority," Zell said during the segment. "I think this deal with Amazon is gonna 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 planned move would have provided. A study commissioned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office estimated that the 25,000 job that the tech giant would have brought could have produced $27.5 billion in addition city and state tax revenues 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 $27.5 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 lawmakers opposing the HQ2 move were skeptical of the roughly $3 billion in tax incentives given to Amazon in the deal, and frustrated that the deal would not be eligible for review by the city council. 

In response, Meeks pointed out that many elected officials, including the governor, New York City mayor, and US House members representing the district were for the deal, but argued that "we need to be inclusive in any deals, though."

As CNBC cut to commercial break, Zell responded to the Meeks comment.

"What a crock of s---," Zell said off-camera.

After the segment, Meeks blasted Zell in a tweet and said that 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 [cities] 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 color deal with in the corporate board rooms daily."

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

 

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