The newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal in the 1970s has been controlled by the Graham family for generations and the decision to sell caught most people by surprise.
Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Company, said the downturn in the print industry had led to the decision to sell the flagship and other newspapers.
“Everyone at the Post Company and everyone in our family has always been proud of The Washington Post — of the newspaper we publish and of the people who write and produce it,” Graham said in a statement.
“I, along with Katharine Weymouth (CEO and publisher of The Post) and our board of directors, decided to sell only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders). Jeff Bezos’ proven technology and business genius, his long-term approach and his personal decency make him a uniquely good new owner for the Post.”
The company's newspaper division has been struggling for years as the rapid growth of the Internet eroded readership and advertising revenue. In the first quarter of 2013, it reported a loss of $49.3 million.
Bezos, who will pay cash for The Washington Post Company's newspaper assets, sought to reassure journalists and readers that the values of The Post would not change under his ownership, which has nothing to do with Amazon.
“I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington, DC and our nation, and the Post’s values will not change,” said Bezos, one of the richest men in the world.
“Our duty to our readers will continue to be the heart of the Post, and I am very optimistic about the future.”
Slate Magazine, Slate V, TheRoot.com and Foreign Policy are not included in the sale.
Bezos has asked Weymouth and several other top executives to continue in their roles.