WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Giving a behind-the-scenes breakdown of the events leading up to the Washington Post sale to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald Graham explained how the new “technologist” is the paper’s best chance to thrive after 80 years of Graham family ownership.
In an interview from the Post’s newsroom, Graham laid out the genesis of the Post sale to Bezos.
“Everybody at the top of the Washington Post Co. had the same reaction when we first started to think about the possibility, which was great surprise, sadness,” said Graham. “But the reason we started to think about it, because the point of our family’s ownership, and we were brought up to understand this, was it’s good for the Post.”
Graham, who is also on the Board of Directors at Facebook, said after he and the Post’s Katharine Weymouth saw that the paper was looking at its 7th straight year of losses that something needed to be done.
Graham met with Bezos twice in early July and the “very analytical person” Bezos asked to study the numbers. Graham insisted that Bezos took a lot of time in consideration of buying the paper, and that it was surely not the most lucrative move Bezos could have made, but that he hopes he can turn a large profit.
“It’s pretty obvious that Jeff Bezos has a certain strength when it comes to the future of news,” said Graham. “When you think of that growing and growing and growing digital and mobile audience, Jeff knows a lot about that. He knows how to reach people and he knows how to establish commercial relationships with advertisers and others.”
Graham said he had talked to “less than a dozen” other possible buyers, but that Bezos was ultimately the offer they had to take.
“I hope the Post makes a tremendous amount of money for Jeff’s sake and for the sake of everybody that works here,” said Graham. “It’s not like he’s going to walk in with a pre-packaged solution to the problems of the newspaper business…but he didn’t do this impulsively.”
Graham stated that Bezos will keep the management, editors and paywall in place for the remainder of their contract, which lasts for another year.
“Everybody knows that newspapers have to change, we have been changing,” said Graham. “But we are going to be guided by someone Warren Buffett called the ‘best CEO in the United States.’”
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