Wow. Talk about a changing market in journalism. The huge news today is that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is plunking $250 million in cash to buy The Washington Post. Here is more:
Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.
Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter.
The sale to Bezos involves The Post and its website (washingtonpost.com), along with the Express newspaper, the Gazette Newspapers and Southern Maryland Newspapers in suburban Washington, the Fairfax County Times, the Spanish-language El Tiempo Latino newspaper, and the Robinson Terminal production plant in Springfield. Bezos will also purchase the Comprint printing operation in Gaithersburg, which publishes several military publications.
The deal does not include the company’s headquarters on 15th St. NW in Washington (the building has been for sale since February), or Foreign Policy magazine, Slate.com, the Root.com, the WaPo Labs digital-development operation or Post-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria.
Bezos’s purchase is a great addition to the history of The Washington Post:
The Post, founded in 1877, has been controlled since 1933 by the heirs of Eugene Meyer, a Wall Street financier and former Federal Reserve official. Meyer bought the paper for $825,000 at a bankruptcy auction during the depth of the Depression.
After years of financial struggle, Meyer and his successor as publisher of The Post, son-in-law Philip L. Graham, steered the paper into a leading position among Washington’s morning newspapers. They began enlarging the company, notably by acquiring TV stations and Newsweek magazine in 1963 (the company sold the magazine for a nominal fee to the late billionaire Sidney Harman in 2010 after years of losses). In later years, the company added cable TV systems and the Kaplan educational division, currently the company’s largest by revenue.
Here is Jeff Bezos’s letter to The Washington Post employees, in which he alludes to the changing nature of journalism and what’s to come for the paper:
There will of course be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.