Washington Post closes sale to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos

October 1, 2013

Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos formally took over as the owner of The Washington Post on Tuesday, officially ending 80 years of local control of the newspaper by the Graham family.

Bezos’s $250 million purchase was completed as expected with the signing of sale documents. The signing transfers the newspaper and other assets from The Washington Post Co. to Nash Holdings, Bezos’s private investment company.

Bezos, who founded the online shopping company in 1994 and became a billionaire in the process, has vowed to continue the newspaper’s long history of independent journalism. His technical and marketing savvy, long-term outlook and lack of an apparent ideological agenda made him an attractive steward for the paper, Post Co. chief executive Donald E. Graham said in August, when an agreement in principle was first disclosed.

At the same time, Bezos, 49, has the deep pockets to sustain an enterprise that has been buffeted for years by declining readership and advertising, especially in the printed Post.

The Post’s new owner hasn’t disclosed specific plans or changes he intends to make for the money-losing paper. But in earlier interviews and on a two-day visit to The Post’s downtown Washington headquarters in early September, he suggested that he’ll provide a financial cushion — or “runway” — that will allow The Post time to conduct experiments that could lead to a successful business model.

Timeline

The major events that have shaped the Washington Post Co.

The Washington Post Co. will continue to operate as a separate company without The Post newspaper. It is the parent company for a variety of businesses, including cable-TV systems, TV stations and the Kaplan education company. It will change its name to reflect the newspaper’s sale, but a new name hasn’t been announced yet. Graham will continue as chief executive of the renamed company.

Although Bezos will head the new organization, the rest of the paper’s management won’t change. Publisher Katharine Weymouth will continue in that job, as will executive editor Martin Baron.

Bezos himself will remain chief executive of Amazon, based in Seattle. He has said he will visit the paper periodically but will devote most of his attention to his “day job” running Amazon, which had revenue of $61 billion last year.

Weymouth, who is Graham’s niece, will be The Post’s sole remaining connection to the family that has guided and shaped the newspaper for four generations. She is the great-granddaughter of Eugene Meyer, the financier who bought the paper at a bankruptcy auction in 1933 and built it with the help of his son-in-law, Philip L. Graham, and later Graham’s widow and Meyer’s daughter, Katharine Graham. Donald, the son of Philip and Katharine, became publisher of the newspaper and eventually succeeded his mother as chief executive of the parent company.

In addition to The Post nameplate and its Springfield, Va., printing plant, Bezos is acquiring the Spanish-language El Tiempo newspaper, the free-distribution Express daily newspaper, the suburban Washington Gazette weeklies and 23 acres of undeveloped land in Charles County, Md.

Jeff Bezos, the Internet mogul and Amazon.com founder, recently purchased The Washington Post in a historic shift for the newspaper. (Nicki DeMarco and Emi Kolawole/The Washington Post)

In a note to employees on Tuesday, Katharine Weymouth said, “We are officially under new ownership, and a new era for The Washington Post begins.”

She thanked her uncle for helping the newspaper remain “a standard-bearer for world-class news reporting and analysis,” adding, “with Jeff’s leadership, we will build on that foundation and take The Post to new heights.”

The Washington Post Co.’s stock closed at $628.54 per share, up $17.19, or 2.8 percent, in Tuesday’s trading. The close was a five-year high for the stock, which has been rising steadily this year.

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