Trump meets with tech titans as Bezos lauds 'productive' session

Tech titans Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg meet with Trump transition team
Tech titans Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg meet with Trump transition team

A confab of tech titans had a "productive" meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CNBC, as Trump moved to mend fences with Silicon Valley before taking office in January.

Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Tesla were among the C-suite executives in attendance, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expected to get private briefings, according to transition staff.

During the campaign, Trump issued a number of barbs directed at Bezos and his businesses, but at the meeting both men appeared nothing but complimentary.

"I found today's meeting with the president-elect, his transition team, and tech leaders to be very productive," Bezos said. "I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech—agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing—everywhere."

Though many tech leaders actively opposed his election, Trump said at the meeting he was interested in helping tech do well — and that the executives can call any time, since there's no formal chain of command.

"We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," Trump said. "There's no one like you in the world....anything we can do to help this go along, we're going to be there for you. You can call my people, call me — it makes no difference — we have no formal chain of command around here."

(L to R) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, President-elect Donald Trump, during a meeting of technology executives at Trump Tower, Dec. 14, 2016 in New York.
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The full list, according to Trump staff, included:

  • Safra Catz - Oracle
  • Jeff Bezos - Amazon
  • Tim Cook - Apple
  • Brian Krzanich - Intel
  • Larry Page - Alphabet
  • Eric Schmidt - Google
  • Chuck Robbins - Cisco
  • Ginni Rommety - IBM
  • Sheryl Sandberg - Facebook
  • Elon Musk - Tesla
  • Satya Nadella - Microsoft
  • Alex Karp - Palantir

Jobs, skilled immigration and China were the main topics on the table at a meeting, a person familiar with what was discussed told CNBC on Wednesday.

At the meeting, Trump introduced billionaire Wilbur Ross, his Commerce secretary pick, and Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, his choice for director of the National Economic Council.

"They're going to do fair trade deals," Trump said. "They're going to make it easier for you to trade across borders, because there are a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems. If you have any ideas on that, that would be great."

The meeting, organized by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and PayPal and Palantir co-founder and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, was billed as an introductory session, four sources briefed on the talks told Reuters.

"I won't tell you the hundreds of calls we've had asking to come here to this meeting," Trump said. "And I will say Peter [Thiel] was saying, 'No, that company's too small,' and these are monster companies. But I want to start by thanking Peter, because he saw something very early, maybe before we saw it. And of course, he's known for that... he's ahead of the curve."

Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump and vice president elect Mike Pence were also in attendance.

Tweet: Honored to have sat in on this meeting. The most impressive group of minds I"ve seen assembled all looking to fight for America and US jobs.

Sandberg told Trump she was excited to talk about jobs, Bezos said he was excited about innovation, while Thiel's comrade, Karp emphasized bolstering national security.

Musk, Travis Kalanick of Uber, and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty are among Trump's economic advisers. Still, Trump and his cabinet picks have not seen eye-to-eye with tech leaders on many issues, including encryption, immigration, and diversity. Musk said in November he felt Trump was "not the right guy" for the presidency, saying Trump doesn't "seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States."

While companies like Apple are set to benefit from Trump's tax promises, job creation in the U.S. is set to be a point of heated discussion.

When President Barack Obama tried to pressure Apple into moving manufacturing jobs back to the U.S, co-founder Steve Jobs told Obama "those jobs aren't coming back," according a 2012 New York Times report. Rometty, meanwhile, has said that IBM would consider a hiring spree over the next four years.

Stocks have rallied since Trump's election, something he alluded to in the early stages of his meeting with the executives, though tech stocks have not seen the same pop as the broader market.

"I'm very honored by the bounce, everybody's talking about the bounce, so everybody in this room has to like me at least a little bit," Trump said. "We're going to try to have that bounce continue."

— Reporting by CNBC's Deirdre Bosa