Family media dynasty the Grahams have sold The Washington Post, one of the most respected news organisations in the US, after eight decades of family ownership.
It has been bought, along with a number of weekly newspapers, for $250 million (€188.6 million) by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of online retailer Amazon.
Graham ownership of the paper began in 1933, when businessman Eugene Meyer bought it in a bankruptcy sale for $825,000. It went on to become the most influential paper in Washington DC, and its biggest scoop – exposing the Watergate scandal – brought down President Nixon.
The company went public in 1971, but the Grahams retained 70% ownership.
In a letter published on The Washington Post website, fourth-gen Katherine Weymouth, who is the newspaper’s publisher and chief executive, said the sale of the business was a day her family never expected to come.
But she said Bezos – one of the world’s wealthiest people with a reported net worth of $23.2 billion – shared the same principles as the Graham family and a long-term view of his investments. She said he would be able to accelerate the pace and quality of innovation at the business.
Since 2008, when Weymouth joined The Post, circulation has dropped from 638,000 to about 450,000, and revenues have dropped from $801 million to $582 million last year. As a result the Grahams moved to cut costs, closing all the paper’s regional bureaus and reducing its foreign correspondents overseas.
Weymouth’s uncle Don Graham, who is chairman of the company, said in a letter to employees he had been certain the paper would survive under the family’s ownership but that they had wanted it to succeed above and beyond that.
“The point of our ownership has always been that it was supposed to be good for the The Post,” he said.
Bezos has bought the Washington Post in a personal capacity, and the paper will not be part of Amazon. In a letter to employees, he said he understood their possible apprehension regarding change at the organisation, particularly as the Grahams had acted in good faith over so many decades.
He said, however, that he would not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.
In addition to The Washington Post, the sale includes Greater Washington Publishing, a number of Gazette newspapers, Express, El Tiempo Latino and Robinson Terminal.
Weymouth will remain publisher and chief executive, and the paper’s editor, Martin Baron, is expected to remain in his position.