Amazon plans to create $100 million in stock awards to retain Zoox talent

Amazon is planning to create at least $100 million in stock awards to retain Zoox talent and can pull out from the deal if a substantial number of the startup's employees turn down job offers from the Seattle firm. The acquisition, worth at $1.3 billion, was announced on June 26, with both parties hoping to finalize the takeover by September.

In a funding round in 2018, the self-driving startup had been valued at $3.2 billion. According to deal documents, Zoox was projected to run out of cash by July, with the firm burning $30 million a month in early 2020. Amazon had the option to loan Zoox $30 million when the deal was signed last month, with the possibility of additional loans before the deal finalizes.

Before the definitive agreement was reached, attempts to woo away Zoox and its talent were made, with GM-backed Cruise, another self-driving company, offering $1.05 billion to buy Zoox. Additionally, Zoox's engineers were approached with job offers by Cruise's founder.

The deal documents reveal two lists of "key employees," with all those on the first list required to accept Amazon jobs for the deal to close, and at least 19 from the second list needing to stay. The Seattle firm plans to offer positions to three schedules of other Zoox workers, necessitating that 90% of the first two and 88% of the third take Amazon jobs for the deal to close.

Jesse Levinson, Zoox co-founder, who owns roughly 37% stake in the firm, will receive 40% of his deal compensation over the next three years rather than at the deal's closing. Documents reveal that Aicha Evans, CEO at Zoox, received a $3.4 million cash bonus.

Employees that had joined Zoox by May 18 will be entitled to a $125 million cash "transaction bonus pool," that will be paid out in proportion to their shares. Amazon contributed 30% of the funding required, in addition to the $100 million pool of restricted stock units that it will create for Zoox employees who will take Amazon jobs.

Source: Reuters

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