Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has announced a surprise plan to buy The Washington Post for US$250 million in cash.
Bezos is snapping up one of the country's most respected daily newspapers in a private deal that is separate from his role at Amazon. Bezos will not run the Post day to day, he said Monday in a letter to the newspaper's employees.
"I am happily living in 'the other Washington' where I have a day job that I love," Bezos wrote, referring to Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.
Details are unclear on what the purchase means for the future of the 80-plus-year-old newspaper.
Bezos acknowledged that the deal would be met with "apprehension" by the Post's employees, but pledged to continue the paper's mission to "follow the news, wherever it leads."
Still, there will be changes at the paper in the coming years, he said.
"That's essential and would have happened with or without new ownership," Bezos wrote. "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."
"There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy," he said.
The Washington Post's publisher and CEO, Katharine Weymouth, will stay on in that position, she said in her own letter to employees. The Post is expected to remain profitable, she said, though Bezos' focus will be on the role that the newspaper's journalism has on dialogue and the flow of information.
"Mr. Bezos knows as well as anyone the opportunities that come with revolutionary technology when we understand how to make the most of it," she wrote.
The transaction is expected to close later this year, according to a press release. Along with the Post, it covers the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.
The deal came as a surprise and few knew that the newspaper was up for sale, the Post reported in its own story.