For a 20-year-old company with more than 50,000 employees and one of the biggest market capitalizations of any company in history, Amazon sure is full of surprises.

And if a breaking report that surfaced in The Wall Street Journal about its decision on a second headquarters is true, it's a twist that nobody saw coming.

For more than a year, 20 cities and communities around the country have been waiting for this announcement: hoping, praying they'd be the winner, and Amazon would pick them as the location for its second corporate headquarters, known as HQ2, bringing with it as many as 50,000 new white-collar jobs.

But now this new Journal report says Amazon has made a very surprising decision. 

There won't be one winner, the Journal says, citing "a person familiar with the matter." Instead, Amazon will split HQ2 evenly between two locations, and assign 25,000 employees to each location. 

The final announcement on which two cities are involved could come this week.

But while Amazon is in "late-stage" talks with at least three cities (more on which three cities below), the company hasn't actually decided which two will share HQ2, according to the report.

The spoils here could be significant, especially if it's a smaller city that wins on of the two HQ2 slots.

Assume each employee makes an average of $100,000 a year, and we're talking about two communities that will wind up getting an extra $2.5 billion a year economic infusion based on salaries alone. 

So why cut it all in half? The main impetus, the Journal reports, is Amazon thinks that will make it more feasible to attract all the tech workers it needs to recruit.

The company also apparently is concerned about the impact that quickly adding tens of thousands of workers will have on housing prices and transportation infrastructure in any individual city.

Today's report comes after a whirlwind of rumored activity on Amazon's HQ2 decision process this weekend. On Saturday, as my colleague Chris Matyszczyk explained, The Washington Post (owned of course by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) reported that Crystal City, Virginia, just outside Washington, was in final talks with Amazon. 

Then an Amazon executive who apparently isn't involved in the selection process blasted the Post report via Twitter.

And then on Sunday, the same Journal reporter who did today's report, Laura Stevens, was one of a team of Journal writers reporting that Crystal City was only one of three cities that were getting the "final contender" treatment from Amazon.

The other two finalists according to yesterday's report: New York City and Dallas.

The company's interest in Denver, Toronto, Atlanta, Nashville, and Raleigh, N.C., "appear[ed] to have cooled," the report continued.

And the question of whether other cities such as Miami, Chicago, and Newark, N.J., that made the final list of 20 were still in the running was unclear.

All of which leads me to double down on what I wrote earlier today about what this really tells us about Amazon: it's one of the world's most amazingly one-sided negotiations.

By playing more than 20 communities against each other, gaining massive concessions, and refusing at this late date to name any particular community even as a front-runner, Jeff Bezos and Amazon have shown that no matter which communities win HQ2, the real winner here will be Amazon itself.

Published on: Nov 5, 2018
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