Jeff Bezos, founder of internet giant Amazon, will soon become the owner of iconic US newspaper the Washington Post, in a move that has surprised many in the American capital.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is known for spending heavily on long-term investments, even if it means missing financial targets and upsetting investors.
His approach makes him a strong candidate to take over ownership of a deeply troubled but highly respected business like the Washington Post.
There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment
The 49-year-old billionaire is buying the newspaper as a personal investment for $250m. It is the latest in his eclectic array of investments through Bezos Expeditions, which include the business news website Business Insider and Twitter.
He pioneered online shopping, beginning by selling books from his Seattle garage in 1995, ultimately amassing a $25bn personal fortune, according to Forbes magazine.
The Washington Post has been losing readers and advertising revenue to the internet in recent years. The newspaper is internationally known for its investigation of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, which led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as US president.
Need to experiment
Jeff Bezos is buying the newspaper as an individual, and Amazon is not involved in the deal. In a letter to Post employees, he said he would be keeping his “day job” as Amazon CEO but he made clear there would be changes.
“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,” Mr Bezos wrote.
We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes.Jeff Bezos
“There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”
“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. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.”
State of shock
Katharine Weymouth, the newspaper’s publisher and CEO and a member of the family that has owned the newspaper since 1933, will remain in her post.
She has asked other senior managers to stay on, stating; “Mr Bezos knows as well as anyone the opportunities that come with revolutionary technology when we understand how to make the most of it.”
“I think we’re all still in shock,” said Robert McCartney, one of the Post’s Metro columnists.
“Everybody’s standing around the newsroom talking about it… I don’t think much work’s getting done.”