The Washington Post and some of its affiliated publications are being sold to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos for $250 million.
Amazon itself will have no role in the purchase; Bezos will be the company’s sole owner, taking over from 80 years of ownership by the Graham family.
The paper, like many others, has had difficulty staying profitable in the digital age, with operating revenue declining 44 percent over the last six years. Though Donald Graham, the Post Co.’s chief executive, said that the paper could have remained profitable for the foreseeable future, the ownership “wanted to do more than survive.”
Bezos called the Washington Post “an important institution,” and said he doesn’t “have a worked-out plan.”
“This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation,” Bezos said in an interview. Nevertheless, Bezos said the “key thing” that people should take away from the paper’s acquisition is that “the values of the Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”
In a letter to the paper’s employees, Bezos wrote that he will not be leading the paper in its day-to-day activities, which he would leave up to the Post’s ”excellent leadership team.” In addition, Bezos wrote that the paper “ will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.”
The Bezos acquisition does not mark the end of the Graham family’s involvement in the paper: The paper’s publisher and niece of CEO Donald Graham, Katharine Weymouth, will stay on as publisher and chief executive (in a note to Post employees, she said, “This is a day that my family and I never expected to come”). In addition, executive editor Martin Baron will remain with the paper and no layoffs are planned.
The acquisition includes a number of WaPo’s affiliated newspapers, including the Fairfax County Times and some other suburban D.C. papers, and the daily’s production facilities, but didn’t involve the paper’s main office real estate in D.C. or its online affiliates, such as Slate and Foreign Policy.