Renzi hire of Amazon honcho raises eyebrows
ROME -- The Italian government has appointed vice-president of Amazon, Guido Piacentini, as its new advisor for digital innovation, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported. The appointment came on Wednesday evening, in an exchange of Tweets between Amazon president Jeff Bezos and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.
Concerns have been raised regarding the suitability of the appointment given recent accusations against Amazon for tax evasion during investigations led by prosecutors in Milan.
Piacentini joined Amazon in 2000 and was directly given the position of Senior Vice President, where he is head of all international operations. He joined Amazon from fellow multinational company Apple, also implicated in the tax evasion scandal, where he acted as manager. Ever since graduating in economics from Bocconi university Piacentini has seemed to land himself in impressively high-paid and high-profile jobs, although retains a careful public image.
The practicalities of Piacentini's new position have been questioned after it came to light that instead of giving up his previous job he would be taking two years leave from Amazon to work for the Italian government, before returning to the private sector. He will reportedly not be earning a salary from either employer during this time.
Raffaele Barberio, director of specialist site Key4Biz, wrote that "in the USA, when the White House gains professionals coming from private industry, the new appointees must resign from their position in business. Politics and institutions should not be mixed with the interests of private industry."
The announcement comes one week after Doug Gurr, Amazon's top manager, was chosen as non-executive administrator of the Italian Labour Ministry, an appointment called "disgusting" by Labourites.
Like Apple and Google, Amazon has been criticised for paying a reduced level of taxes compared to the profits made. The Milan investigations have recently led to Apple having to pay 318 million euros of compensation, and Google 320 million. It seems Piacentini will have to be extra careful to not create a conflict of interests.