Leave it to Bezos

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Buys the Washington Post Because He Can

Look man, I don't even know.
Now is the part where I throw my head back and laugh. (Photo: flickr.com/oreilly)

Now is the part where I throw my head back and laugh. (Photo: flickr.com/oreilly)

At 4:15 p.m., according to Jim RomaneskoWashington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth called her staffers into the auditorium for a 4:30 p.m. announcement. The news: Amazon founder and noted rocketry enthusiast Jeff Bezos is buying the Post and its “affiliated publications” outright. He’ll pay $250 million in cash.

Perhaps you heard the shrieks of shock issuing from newsrooms all over town?

The rest of the company, including subsidiaries like Kaplan,”will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter,” according to the official announcement. But the paper itself will now be privately held. The sale does not include Foreign Policy, Slate, or the Root.

It’s not Amazon that’s making the purchase, either. Mr. Bezos is coughing up a quarter of a billion dollars of his personal fortune for the privilege of owning the newspaper that broke the Watergate story. But then, who else is going to buy a newspaper in this day and age? The New York Times company bought the Boston Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion, but just offloaded it for $70 million. (Let’s not even discuss Newsweek.)

Whatever Mr. Bezos might have, he’s not disclosing it:

“Bezos, in an interview, called The Post ‘an important institution’ and expressed optimism about its future. ‘I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,’ he said. ‘This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation.’

It doesn’t sound like he’s exactly going to embrace a hell-for-leather blogging ethos, either, based on his letter to WaPo employees:

I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost. While I hope no one ever threatens to put one of my body parts through a wringer, if they do, thanks to Mrs. Graham’s example, I’ll be ready.

Hell, maybe he just wanted to run a business without shareholders constantly pestering him about quarterly returns.

Mr. Bezos has also invested in such long-shot projects as Blue Origin, an aerospace startup, and the Clock of the Long Now, a timepiece being built in the desert to keep time for 10,000 years.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com