Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Quietly Visits Israel Ahead of Major Hiring Drive

U.S. company expected to boost local payroll to 800 and consolidate operations in Haifa campus now under construction.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, June 18, 2014.
Mike Kane/Bloomberg

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of the internet giant Amazon, secretly visited Israel recently as his company moves forward with plans to greatly expand its presence in Israel, TheMarker has learned.

Bezos' visit included meetings with the managers and staff of Annapurna Labs, the Israeli startup Amazon bought in 2015 for $360 million that will serve as the basis for the company’s major upgrade and expansion of its Israeli operations.

Neither Amazon nor Annapurna Labs responded to requests for confirmation. Neither did JLL, the real estate adviser Amazon has retained, to develop the 3,000-square-meter research and development campus that will focus on cloud computing and other technologies.

The U.S. company, which is best known as the world’s biggest online retailer but is also the biggest provider of cloud-computing services, is expected to concentrate its R&D operations in Israel into a new building at the Matam Technology Park in Haifa.

Within two years the company expects to have 800 people working at the new Haifa facility, including the nearly 200 now employed at Annapurna Labs in the nearby town of Yokne'am, where engineers have developed chips that enable Amazon to more efficiently exploit the servers it uses for its cloud services and for its retail business.

Compared with many of the world’s other top technology companies like Google and Microsoft, Amazon was a relative latecomer to Israel and until recently most of its local operations were in sales and marketing and customer support. Israeli staff were also employed in planning the architecture for cloud services, which provides shared computer processing resources and data to paying customers on demand. Amazon’s operations have been scattered between Annapurna’s office in Yokne'am, Haifa and Ramat Gan.

In addition, Amazon contracted with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries to upgrade the Boeing 767S jets it will be using for Prime Air, a cargo airline and drone-based delivery system the U.S. company has currently in development.