The Washington Post, the famed American daily that broke the story of the Watergate scandal leading to the 1974 fall of President Richard Nixon, is being sold to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million.
In a surprise deal announced Monday, Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, will become the sole owner of the Post and affiliated publications when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days.
However, Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase that would end eight decades of control of the Graham family over the newspaper.
In a message to employees Monday, Washington Post Company CEO Don Graham quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a longtime adviser to The Post Co, calling Bezos “the ablest CEO in America.”
Bezos’s reputation and smarts made him attractive as a buyer of The Post, said Katharine Weymouth Weymouth, Graham’s niece and the fourth generation of her family involved in the newspaper, who would stay on as publisher and CEO of the Post.
The Post Company will change its name as part of the transaction, though a new name has yet to be announced.
The deal also includes the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.
The Post Company will maintain its ownership of media titles including Foreign Policy magazine, online magazine Slate and TheRoot.com, as well as education company Kaplan.
It will also hold onto real estate assets including the Post’s headquarters in downtown Washington, as well as cable operator Cable One and the Post-Newsweek network of television stations.
Bezos wrote in his memo to Post employees that the paper “will need to experiment” in the years to come, adding that he was “excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.”
“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,” he wrote.
“There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy.”
The Washington Post Co.’s newspaper division, of which the Post is the most prominent part, has suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue over the past six years, the newspaper said.
Although the paper is one of the most popular news sources online, print circulation has dwindled, too, falling an additional 7 percent daily and Sundays during the first half of this year.
The Post’s sale follows the New York Times Company’s announcement just days earlier that it had sold the Boston Globe for $70 million to sports magnate John W. Henry.
Digital news company IBT Media, meanwhile, announced on Saturday that it had acquired the rights to current-affairs magazine Newsweek for an undisclosed sum.
The Washington Post Company which owned Newsweek for most of its 80-year history sold it to audio industry pioneer Sidney Harman in 2010.