Amazon’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, announced a foray into the newspaper business tonight, buying The Washington Post for $250m (£163m) in cash.
The sale, which is expected to be completed in the next 60 days, will see Mr Bezos become the sole owner of the newspaper. Amazon.com, based in Seattle, is not involved in the deal that will end the Graham family’s 80-year control of the title.
Mr Bezos, whose personal net worth according to Forbes magazine stood at more than $25bn as of March, did not detail his plans for the paper, saying only that “there would be change with or without new ownership”.
“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 key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of the Post do not need changing,” he told the newspaper. “The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”
The owners of the Post managed to pull off the sale with surprising secrecy. According to the paper, the investment firm Allen & Co had been drafted in to sound out possible buyers. No less than half a dozen potential suitors were involved in the process.
The deal, which includes the Post, washingtonpost.com and a number of its current parent’s other publishing assets, follows a six-year run during which the operating revenues of the Washington Post Company’s newspaper division declined by 44 per cent.
Donald Graham, the chairman and chief executive of the business, said the sale came about “only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post.
“Jeff Bezos’ proven technology and business genius, his long-term approach and his personal decency make him a uniquely good new owner.”
In a note to employees, the Post’s publisher and Mr Graham’s niece, Katharine Weymouth, said: “This is a day that my family and I never expected to come. The Washington Post Company is selling the newspaper that it has owned and nurtured for eight decades.”