News of the Washington Post’s sale to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million sent ripples across US media on Monday, with many already wondering whether the billionaire’s personal politics may affect the paper’s coverage in the future.
The 49-year-old Bezos, currently ranked as the 11th richest individual in the US by Forbes and the 19th richest in the world just above Google’s Larry Page, has made top headlines since the surprising news that the Washington Post Company had been secretly conducting a sale of its newspaper properties to the self-made entrepreneur.
According to the Post’s own reporting on the matter, the Graham family’s four-decade ownership will come to an end as the company sells off its leading newspaper publication, along with several smaller regional and niche papers, to the retail innovator.
The Grahams contracted the investment firm Allen & Co. to discreetly approach potential buyers before The Post Company’s board settled on Bezos, who has never operated a newspaper, and will be purchasing it directly, rather than as an Amazon acquisition.
As for whether the sale of the Post to a single individual may impact its editorial outlook over the long term, the initial announcement to staff indicates no immediate staff changes. Bezos assured Post staff that “the values of the Post do not need changing,” though he promised “experimentation” in the future.
“No layoffs are contemplated as a result of the transaction among the paper’s 2,000 employees,” the Post reported on Monday, and publisher Katharine Weymouth as well as editor Marty Baron will be staying on.
Similar purchases in the past most notably that of the Wall Street Journal’s acquisition by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp in 2007, have carried disclaimers that the paper’s editorial operations would be run independently of the buyer’s own politics.
Though Bezos is a self-described libertarian and largely considered opaque on political matters, his contributions indicate he leans towards supporting Democrats and was an instrumental donor to a successful referendum on gay marriage in Washington state last year, giving $2.5 million in support of Referendum 74.