While news of the sale of the iconic Washington Post to Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos is still reverberating around the global media world, the real story lies in how much of a closely guarded secret the deal was. That is reflected in a lavish profile of Post owner Katharine Weymouth in the Style section of the paper’s rival, The New York Times, last Sunday. The profile on Weymouth was on her role in running a newspaper that’s been in her family for four generations. It would have been a major scoop for the reporter but the Graham family’s sale of The Post was announced on Monday, and involved a deal made in total secrecy, apparently on instructions from Bezos, so much so that even the editor and the entire newsroom was kept in the dark. That only adds to the speculation about Bezos and why he bought the paper at a time when the American print media is facing a serious financial crunch.
Bezos is known as a liberal so it may be just a vanity buy; he paid $250 million from his personal fortune and not the publicly-traded Amazon.com. He is worth around $25 billion so it’s a mere 1% of his net worth, but he will have to bear the losses, which were $16.8 million last quarter, mostly due to pensions. Bezos, however, has a record of making eccentric investments. The best known of those is Blue Origin, his private space company which is building a rocket for space travel. He also owns Bezos Expeditions, which has used submersibles to recover valuable items from the bottom of the ocean, including an engine from one of the Apollo mission spaceships. He’s also invested $42 million of his own money in the 10,000 Year Clock project, which aims to build a mechanical clock that can keep time accurately for ten millennia.
The Post purchase is his first media foray and with it he also gets a host of other publications apart from The Post’s online editions. Everything else The Post owns, including the company headquarters captured in the movie, All the President’s Men, stays with the Grahams. So even if The Post is a vanity buy, the current speculation is whether Bezos will use its undoubted influence to push a particular agenda. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to have any. Like most tech entrepreneurs, Bezos is a libertarian,