Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos agreed to buy The Washington Post for 250 million dollars, vaulting the e-commerce magnate into the struggling newspaper industry. Bezos is making the deal as an individual and not as part of Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, according to a statement on Monday.
Washington Post Co., which isn’t selling Kaplan education division and other businesses as part of the transaction, now plans to change its name.
In acquiring the publication, Bezos becomes the latest billionaire to try his hand at reviving the newspaper business. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry agreed to buy the Boston Globe last week and Warren Buffet has assembled an empire of community papers in recent years.
“I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington, D.C., and our nation, and the Post’s values will not change” Bezos said in the statement. “Our duty to readers will continue to be the heart of the Post, and I am very optimistic about the future.”
The deal marks the end of the paper’s stewardship by the Graham family and its relatives, who acquired the paper in 1933.
“This is a day that my family and I never expected to come,” Publisher Katherine Weymouth, niece of Chairman Don Graham, said in a letter to readers. “The Washington Post Co. is selling the newspaper it has owned and nurtured for eight decades.”
Washington Post Co., which also owns Post-Newsweek Stations and Cable ONE, hasn’t announced what its new name will be. In addition to buying the Washington Post, Bezos will get Greater Washington Publishing, the Gazette newspapers, Express, El Tiempo Latino and Robinson Terminal.
Bezos, 49, has a net worth of 27.9 billion dollars according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He ranks above Google Inc. co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Dell Inc founder Michael Dell.
Most of Bezos’s fortune is tied to a 19% stake in Amazon. Since the company’s initial public offering in 1995, Bezos has sold almost 2bn in Amazon stock. Much of that has been plowed into Blue Origin, his closely held space-exploration company.
After deducting 175 million in Blue Origin funding, Bezos probably has about 1.7 billion in cash and other investable assets, based on an analysis of insider transactions, dividend income, taxes and market performance.
Bezos made an earlier foray into the media business in April, when he participated in a 5 million investment round for Business Insider Inc., the news site co-founded by Henry Blodget, the former Internet industry analyst. The Amazon founder’s Bezos Expeditions investment firm handled the investment.
The Post’s sale was necessitated by a declining newspaper industry and challenges too large for a small publicly held company to handle, Graham said in a separate statement.
“Our revenues had declined seven years in a row,” Graham said. “We had innovated and to my critical eye our innovations had been quite successful in audience and in quality, but they hadn’t made up for the revenue decline. Our answer had to be cost cuts and we knew there was a limit to that. We were certain the paper would survive under our ownership, but we wanted it to do more than that. We wanted it to succeed”.