The musical chair shuffle of media ownership continued on Monday afternoon with the announcement that The Washington Post, flagship publication of The Washington Post Company was acquired by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.
A Washington Post article covering the announcement said that, “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.”
The announcement was made before a packed house at the company headquarters in DC. The sale has been spotlighted as a holdover from the downfall of print media that plagued the newspaper industry for the last several years. Representatives for the Post say the decision to sell to Bezos was the culmination of more than a decade of effort to save the paper from declining revenue due to a drop-off in circulation numbers and declining interest from advertisers.
In a letter to readers of The Post, publisher & CEO Katharine Weymouth expressed her trust and admiration for Bezos telling readers, “Mr. Bezos is widely known, of course, as the founder and CEO of Amazon.com. He is a proven entrepreneur who, like the Graham family and this company, takes the long-term view in his investments. While he expects The Post to remain profitable, his focus is on the essential role that our journalism has on dialogue and the flow of information in our society.”
The sale is expected to take up to two months to finalize. Amazon has been quick to separate itself from Bezos and has said the Seattle-based company will have nothing to do with the operation of the Post, which will be solely owned by the Internet entrepreneur.
The announcement of Bezos’ acquisition of the Post rounds out a tense week of media ownership musical chairs. On Friday, John Henry, who owns a principal stake in the Boston Red Sox, reached an agreement to purchase The Boston Globe for $70 million, and late last week, The Daily Beast announced that it would be parting ways with Newsweek after finalizing the sale of the beleaguered online news magazine to the International Business Times.
The Washington Post Co. has been trimming its roster of publications recently. Three short years ago, it sold Newsweek, in part to cover its debts and to stem the tide of hemorrhaging losses. In a failed experiment, the magazine was merged with The Daily Beast. It has since ceased printing and is only available online.
Bezos has chosen to take the the Washington Post private. He is ranked as the fourth wealthiest person in the United States, according to the Forbes list of the Top 100 Wealthiest Americans. When Bezos takes full ownership of the paper, it will mark the first time since 1933 that the publication has not been controlled by the heirs of Eugene Meyer, who acquired The post at auction for $825,000.
Shares of The Washington Post Co. rose 5.5% in afterhours trading following news of the sale. Analysts applauded the acquisition of The Post by Bezos, speculating that under his guidance the paper could become a formidable online presence and be given enough capital runway to perform in depth pieces without the need to appease advertisers, hungry for content while operating on a razor-thin margin.
Joel Mazmanian is a DC-area correspondent for The Blot.