Jeff Bezos reportedly tried to hire SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell to run Blue Origin — but she said it ‘wouldn’t look right’ and declined (AMZN)

  • In its hunt for a CEO, Blue Origin reportedly reached out to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. 
  • Shotwell said the move “wouldn’t look right,” according to a new book out Tuesday. 
  • The CEO search came after Blue Origin executives complained to Bezos about mismanagement. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos once tried to poach one of SpaceX’s top executives to lead his space exploration company, according to a new book out Tuesday. 

In 2016, as SpaceX rode a wave of accomplishments — and Bezos’s Blue Origin lagged behind — the Amazon founder began hunting for a CEO to helm the company, according to the new book “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire” by Brad Stone.

Amazon’s vice president of recruiting reached out to Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, who runs the firm’s day-to-day operations. But Shotwell quickly declined, saying that it “wouldn’t look right,” Stone writes, citing an unnamed person familiar with the conversation. 

SpaceX and Blue Origin did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

According to Stone, the CEO search was sparked by a series of meetings Blue Origin executives had with Bezos, where they tried to fill him in on the company’s shortcomings. Over the course of several lunches, they complained about “poor internal communication, time-consuming meetings, and inexplicable spending decisions,” Stone writes. 

“One engineer described the company as a Potemkin village — its dysfunctional culture concealed beneath an industrious façade,” according to Stone. 

Read more: Why Nuro has quickly become one of the most well-funded autonomous-vehicle startups, raising $1.5 billion to compete in a crowded space already filled with heavy players

At the time, Blue Origin’s project to send tourists to suborbital space on a rocket called New Shepard had faced numerous delays and multiple explosions. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, under Shotwell’s leadership, was racking up technical achievements and prestigious contracts. It had been selected to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, and in April 2016, it landed a reusable Falcon 9 booster on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Blue Origin eventually hired Bob Smith, president of a division at Honeywell Aerospace, to fill the CEO role in 2017, and New Shepard is scheduled to fly in July. But the gap between Blue Origin and SpaceX remains. SpaceX has completed multiple crewed flights to the ISS, and NASA recently selected the firm to land astronauts on the moon, choosing it over Blue Origin

The long-running feud between Bezos and Musk, meanwhile, continues. 

—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2021

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