Amazon reportedly tried to poach Satya Nadella in 2000, and Microsoft is happy it didn’t happen

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (Space Foundation and Microsoft Photos)

Microsoft’s renaissance in recent years may have never come to pass if Jeff Bezos had his way.

In a wide-ranging profile of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Fast Company’s Harry McCracken reports that the Amazon CEO tried to woo Microsoft’s current chief executive back in 2000. Amazon at that time was not as ubiquitous as it has become today, dominating the online retail and cloud industries and expanding out to other fields.

Doug Burgum, who ran Microsoft’s business solutions group and is now governor of North Dakota, mentored Nadella and was charged with keeping him in Redmond. Burgum argued at the time that Microsoft could offer more opportunities to Nadella than an online bookselling company liked Amazon.

“I was wrong about my characterization of Amazon,” Burgum told Fast Company, “but I was right about convincing Satya to stay.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft Build 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Nadella, who will speak at the 2017 GeekWire Summit in Seattle next month, has overseen a massive shift in culture at Microsoft, and it has paid off for the company. Since he took over in 2014, Nadella has rebuilt the tech giant’s reputation and helped it shed characterizations of a fading star.

Fast Company reported that Microsoft’s market value has risen $250 billion during Nadella’s tenure, its stock has passed its dotcom era highs, and Microsoft is now back in the conversation among the world’s top tech giants, along with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Nadella has been with Microsoft since 1992, and one of the lessons that helped guide his tenure as CEO came from outside the company. He shadowed Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, a Microsoft board member, and was impressed how quickly the streaming giant could pivot based on data. That was quite a contrast to Microsoft and its large bureaucracy at the time.

Nadella has put that lesson into practice as CEO, pivoting away from some of the company’s more troubled initiatives, such as its dalliance into the smartphone market. Instead, the company has doubled down on industries and devices where it has a chance to lead the way.

Though Microsoft and Amazon often compete with each other, especially in the ultra-contested voice assistant market Bezos and Nadella still appear to have a solid relationship. The two CEOs were instrumental in a plan for the company’s digital assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to talk to each other. Long-term, the goal is a deep integration in which each assistant simply knows to use the other for a specific task.