Monday, August 05, 2013

Jeff Bezos: Internet Billionaire, News Magnate

Hard to Imagine the Washington Post Not Being Owned by the Grahams? Not Anymore

Wow, talking about being able to keep a secret.

The Washington Post scooped everyone this afternoon with news about The Washington Post, specifically that Amazon founder, CEO and Big Cheese Jeff Bezos is buying the paper for $250 million.

Paul Farhi writes in the Post: "With extraordinary secrecy, Graham hired the investment firm Allen & Co. to shop the paper, company executives said. Allen’s representatives spoke with a half-dozen potential suitors before the Post Co.’s board settled on Bezos, 49, a legendary tech innovator who has never operated a newspaper."

Emphasis on the extraordinary secrecy.

So, what does it all mean in the scheme of things? As far as Bezos is concerned, not much, at least not for now. He's keeping management in place and will stay put in Seattle because he has a "fantastic day job that I love."

It should be noted, as the Post does, that this is Bezos buying the paper and not Amazon, though if he was able to squeeze out a little synergy to pump subscription sales, then who can blame the guy? Moreover, the presence of Bezos may eventually give the paper even more of a push into the digital realm faster than it had planned. That can only be a viewed as a positive, given anemic newsstand sales.

One of Bezos's hallmarks is his patience. This is not a CEO who pulls hair triggers just to satisfy investors. As the book and music business, among others, have found, though, Bezos plays for keeps. It's not a cheap goal. In fact, Amazon lost $38 million last year in pursuit of market dominance. That's won Amazon a lot of fans on Wall Street. It closed today at just under $301 a share. And since Bezos owns 87.1 million shares of Amazon and has a net worth of at least $26.2 billion, he can go long on his growth strategy.

That's good news for the nation's seventh-largest newspaper. The Post has been a poster child for all that ails the newspaper business, what with its hemorrhaging revenues and continued circulation nosedives. If Bezos sees a way out of this mess or empowers others to make that journey of discovery he won't be in a hurry to see results. A Post that was part of a publicly traded company, like it was until today, wouldn't have that luxury.

Sure, it'll be hard to imagine the Graham family no longer being associated with the Post. To be sure, it was a great run, one of the best. But as they leave their legacy, they can rest assured that the newspaper that defined their family now has a secure future.

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