This afternoon, the scuttlebutt in the building was that the big 4:30 p.m. meeting would be about ... the building. You see, The Washington Post building is up for sale, and everyone who works here has been waiting anxiously to find out where we'll be working next. Selling The Post's building was treated like an almost unimaginable upheaval.
Well, bigger upheavals are possible.
The Washington Post is being sold to Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos for $250 million. This comes days after the Boston Globe and Newsweek — a former Post property, by the way — were sold for fractions of their former value.
Like everyone else, I'm shocked. Here are a few things worth thinking about, or at least a few things I'm thinking about:
— This is not just a case of Bezos looking to buy, it's a case of the Graham family looking to sell. As Paul Farhi reported, "With extraordinary secrecy, Graham hired the investment firm Allen & Co. to shop the paper, company executives said. Allen’s representatives spoke with a half-dozen potential suitors before the Post Co.’s board settled on Bezos."
— Don Graham says the decision to sell came from a simple calculation: The Washington Post is a public company, and it doesn't have infinitely deep pockets. They looked to the future and saw that they'd have to keep cutting. The implication is that Bezos doesn't have to keep cutting, and won't keep cutting, though nobody really knows.
— The Washington Post will now be part of a private company, not a public one.
— The Post isn't being sold to Amazon. It's being sold to Bezos. He's buying it as an individual.
— According to Forbes, Bezos's net worth is $25.2 billion. That means he's buying The Post for less than 1 percent of his fortune.
— Also, the Atlantic's Andrew Golis is right about this:
— The case for Jeff Bezos, in one tweet
— The case against Jeff Bezos — if you're a reader of The Post — is that Bezos owns one of the largest and most influential companies in America. Amazon's political interests extend across everything from state sales taxes to the minimum wage to trade with China. It's doubtful that Bezos intends to aggressively use The Post to advance Amazon's legislative goals. But over time, who knows? The Post has had to navigate similar tensions in recent years with our Kaplan division, but this will be of a new scale.
— Perhaps the other case against Bezos if you're a local reader of The Post is that its hard to imagine he's as interested in The Post's local coverage as the Grahams are. He lives in the state of Washington — not the District — and has no plans to relocate. That said, if you're a fan of The Post's national and international coverage, Bezos's presumably more national focus is arguably a plus.
— Here's Jeff Bezos's letter to The Post's employees. Here's Katherine Weymouth's. Here's Don Graham's.
— For now, I'm hopeful.