Amazon plans to create at least US$100m in stock awards to retain the approximately 900 employees of Zoox, the self-driving car startup it offered to buy last month, and can walk away from the deal if large numbers of them turn down job offers from the technology giant, Reuters reported.
The report noted Amazon, which is aggressively expanding into self-driving technology, announced recently it had agreed to acquire the Silicon Valley company which was founded on an ambitious effort to design a fully autonomous vehicle from the ground up rather than retrofitting existing cars for self-driving.
Reuters said Amazon would pay $1.3bn in cash for the takeover which the parties hope to close by September, according to deal documents seen by the news agency.
Zoox had been valued at $3.2bn in 2018, Reuters said, citing data from PitchBook. The Amazon deal documents showed Zoox was spending over $30m each month in early 2020 and projected it would run out of cash by July.
Amazon had the option to lend Zoox $30m on signing the agreement in June, with the option for further loans before the deal closes, the report said.
Reuters noted attempts to wrest Zoox or its talent away from Amazon started before the two even reached a definitive agreement.
After Zoox signed an exclusive agreement to negotiate with Amazon but before they reached a deal, a third party stepped in to offer $1.05bn, according to the deal documents seen by the news agency.
The offer came from Cruise, the self-driving company backed in part by General Motors, Honda Motor and SoftBank Group, two unnamed sources told Reuters. Zoox did not respond to the offer.
Reuters had reported on 4 June the founder of Cruise approached Zoox engineers with job offers.
According to the report, technology news publication The Information reported on 30 June two senior Zoox engineers, James Philbin and Marc Wimmershoff, had joined Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving unit.
Reuters said the Amazon-Zoox deal documents describe two lists of ‘key employees’. All on the first list must take Amazon jobs for the deal to close, and at least 19 from the second list must stay. Amazon plans to offer jobs to three schedules of other Zoox employees, requiring that 90% of the first two and 88% of the third accept jobs to close the deal.
Reuters added it could not determine which employees were specified.