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Amazon.com founder to buy Washington Post in surprise move

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 10:11 a.m. CDT

(MCT) SEATTLE — Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has agreed to buy the Washington Post for $250 million in cash, the Post said in an article Monday on its website.

The acquisition will be Bezos’ personally, and includes no money from Amazon. Bezos will buy the publicly traded Washington Post Co., taking it private. The deal is expected to close in 60 days.

In a letter to the Post staff, Bezos, who has no journalism background, sought to allay the potential apprehension among the staff.

“(L)et me start with something critical,” Bezos wrote. “The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes.”

Through an Amazon spokesman, Bezos declined an interview request.

It’s a surprising deal for Bezos to make. Not only does he not own any other media properties, but he also is a reticent public figure.

But Bezos assured the staff that he would not be leading the newspaper on a day-to-day basis. He noted that the paper “already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do.” And he said that those leaders have agreed to continue with the paper.

That said, Bezos was clear in his note to the staff that change is coming.

“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,” Bezos wrote. “There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy.”

Bezos will push the Post to “invent,” using the same mantra that he uses to guide Amazon: He wants the paper to focus first on its customers, “understanding what they care about,” from government to scout troops.

For its part, the family that owns the Post expressed something almost approaching surprise as it announced the deal. In a letter to readers, Post Publisher and Chief Executive Katharine Weymouth said this was “ a day that my family and I never expected to come.” She noted that the board agreed to the sale with “a heavy heart but with an absolute conviction that Mr. Bezos’ ownership represents a unique and extraordinary opportunity.”

It’s clear that the board’s conviction is based both on Bezos’ deep pockets and his track record of seizing the opportunity presented by the Internet. While he didn’t commit publicly to investing in the paper beyond the purchase price, it’s clear that the Graham family, which has long managed the Post, expects Bezos to support efforts to improve the paper.

“Mr. Bezos knows as well as anyone the opportunities that come with revolutionary technology when we understand how to make the most of it,” wrote Weymouth, who will continue as publisher and chief executive. “Under his ownership and with his management savvy, we will be able to accelerate the pace and quality of innovation.”

The acquisition is the second in as many weeks of a major metropolitan newspaper by a corporate titan. Just last week, John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, agreed to buy the Boston Globe for $70 million from the New York Times.

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©2013 The Seattle Times

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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