May 23, 2017

A Mogul Gets a Landmark in the Capital

Yet now, from his tech frontier in Seattle, Mr. Bezos has bridged those far-flung worlds by buying The Washington Post.

The purchase price of $250 million is a pittance for a man who ranked 19th on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, with an estimated fortune of more than $25 billion. But the deal was still an astonishing move for a magnate who has kept a low profile in politics and has said almost nothing about his interest in newspapers, except that he reads them.

Nonetheless, Mr. Bezos will now have a microphone as powerful as anyone in Washington and outside the West Wing. Keeping with a lot of his tech industry peers, he brings with him a sort of libertarian bent, having supported gay marriage in the state of Washington and fought higher income taxes on wealthy people.

“Of the businesspeople I know, he and Bill Gates are the two most intellectually curious people I know,” said Rob Glaser, the founder of another Seattle technology company, RealNetworks, who has known Mr. Bezos since the 1990s. “It doesn’t surprise me that Jeff would find something with the intellectual depth of The Post an intriguing, compelling thing to be involved with.”

Mr. Bezos, 49, said in a statement on Monday that he would leave the day-to-day operations at The Washington Post to others. But his history — rising quickly as a Wall Street whiz, then starting Amazon.com out of a garage and building it into a retailing giant — is chock-full of cold calculations to improve his company’s fortunes. Many of his decisions have panned out, as Amazon has muscled its way into nearly every corner of retailing, leaving many competitors chafed its his wake.

The purchase of The Washington Post fits into one of the more eclectic — some might say, eccentric — patterns of investing and charitable giving of today’s billionaires. On top of the usual ream of stakes in technology start-ups like Uber and Twitter, Mr. Bezos has indulged his passion for space by financing the recovery from the seabed of an Apollo rocket that carried the first men to the moon.

He is paying for creation of a clock buried in a mountain in West Texas that will tick once a year for the next 10,000 years.

And now, Mr. Bezos — a man known for being an unsentimental businessman — has invested squarely in a sentimental business steeped in tradition. Of course, The Washington Post deal could feed his demonstrated appetite for reinventing venerable industries, from retailing to book publishing. Amazon’s Kindle business has turned Mr. Bezos from a merchant into a media mogul, as celebrated in some circles as another digital disrupter, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s former chief executive.

Mr. Bezos and Donald E. Graham, The Washington Post’s chief executive, have longstanding connections that may have helped the discussions. As an article on The Post’s Web site noted on Monday, Mr. Graham gave the Amazon chief advice on how to promote newspapers on the Kindle device. And Amazon is an investor in LivingSocial, an e-commerce venture led by Tim O’Shaughnessy, Mr. Graham’s son-in-law.

He has provided few clues about what changes might be in store. In an interview last year, though, he stated that he did not think people reading the Web would pay for a newspaper subscription because they were too trained to get it free. The Washington Post started an online subscription plan this year.

He said in the same interview that there would be no printed newspapers in 20 years. The Washington Post had more than 457,000 subscribers to its daily edition in the first quarter of this year.

This year, Mr. Bezos was one of a group that put $5 million into the Business Insider, a news site founded by Henry Blodget. Mr. Blodget rose to fame as a Wall Street analyst in the late 1990s with a wild forecast for Amazon’s shares that came true.

Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon, who works with the Amazon chief on his personal initiatives, said Mr. Bezos was not available for an interview.

Nick Wingfield reported from Seattle and David Streitfeld from San Francisco. Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting from New York.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/business/media/a-mogul-gets-a-landmark-in-the-capital.html?partner=rss&emc=rss