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Amazon's 'Fire Phone' Boss Is Now Running Its Restaurant Delivery and Ticketing Businesses

Ian Freed, an 11-year veteran of Amazon, is back after a one-year sabbatical.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

When Amazon has big hopes for a new business idea, it typically names an exec to lead it who has previously held high-profile roles at the company. Apparently, Amazon is very serious about its fledgling restaurant-delivery business.

Ian Freed, an 11-year veteran of Amazon who built and led the teams that launched high-profile devices like the Fire Phone and Kindle e-reader, is now the head of this new initiative. Freed recently updated his LinkedIn profile with the news that he is the new VP of this business as well as Amazon’s new ticket-selling business for shows and concerts in the U.K. His return to Amazon comes after a one-year sabbatical that followed the Fire Phone’s flop.

Amazon exec Ian Freed

Amazon launched the restaurant-meal-delivery business last year in Seattle as part of its Prime Now service, a separate app where Amazon Prime members in major cities can order free two-hour delivery on a limited selection of items.

Since September, six more Prime Now cities have added restaurant delivery as part of the service, and Amazon Restaurants GM Gus Lopez told Re/code to expect more cities to launch in the future. (Lopez is now reporting to Freed.) The service offers a selection from a few dozen restaurants in each market, and is currently not charging customers any delivery or other fees.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Freed took a one-year leave of absence from Amazon in late 2014 after Fire Phone sales disappointed. The phone contained some innovative features but was priced high, at $199, just as Apple launched a new line of iPhones. Amazon quickly cut the price to 99 cents with a two-year phone service subscription, but it was too late.

Despite that outcome, Freed is still held in high regard inside the company. He previously led Kindle teams for several years, and was once Jeff Bezos’s technical assistant, or “shadow,” a highly coveted mentee-type role working side by side with the CEO.

The fact that Amazon has placed a top exec atop this business should send a strong message about Amazon’s intentions to big competitors such as GrubHub, as well as startups such as DoorDash, Postmates and Caviar, which is owned by Jack Dorsey’s payments company Square. Uber is also building a similar service under the UberEats brand.

GrubHub, which is a public company with a $2 billion market cap, is far and away the leader in the category, but each of these smaller competitors are taking slightly different strategies to try to build competitive advantages. Amazon, for example, is not charging any delivery or service fees, though Lopez previously told Re/code that may change in the future.

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