Today the Washington Post Company agreed to sell the Washington Post newspaper to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million in cash. This ends the Graham family's ownership of the paper after four generations. The deal, which was made independently of Bezos' other ventures, is expected to close within 60 days.
Bezos says he has no plans to make any major changes to the paper or to its staff. “I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington, DC and our nation, and the Post’s values will not change,” said Bezos in a press release. “Our duty to readers will continue to be the heart of the Post, and I am very optimistic about the future.”
What exactly Bezos plans to do with the paper remains unclear. In an interview with the Post, he basically says he has no idea what's going to happen.
“I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation.”
The deal not only includes the Washington Post but also the Express newspaper, El Tiempo Latino, Southern Maryland Newspapers, The Gazette Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, and Greater Washington Publishing.
While the Post has been suffering like every other paper in the country, it appears as though the Graham family wasn't looking to actually sell the paper until Bezos came along.
“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion—shock—in even thinking about” selling The Post, said Donald Graham, the Post Co.’s chief executive, in an interview Monday. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”
Added Graham, “The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”
Graham elaborated in a memo to the staff of the Post:
Our revenues had declined seven years in a row. We had innovated and to my critical eye our innovations had been quite successful in audience and in quality, but they hadn’t made up for the revenue decline. Our answer had to be cost cuts and we knew there was a limit to that. We were certain the paper would survive under our ownership, but we wanted it to do more than that. We wanted it to succeed.
Earlier this year Bezos invested in Business Insider. This marks his second, albeit larger investment, in a media property in 2013. [Washington Post]