Breakout

Bezos Buys The Washington Post, Now He Needs a Plan

Jeff Macke
Breakout

Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos is paying $250 million to buy the Washington Post (WPO) and even he doesn't seem to know why. Bezos actually copped to his lack of a plan in a somewhat rambling letter to Post employees.

"There is no map and charting a path won't be easy," Bezos confessed. "Our touchstone will be readers -understanding what they care about... and working backwards from there."

If this were any eccentric billionaire other than Jeff Bezos we'd already know his motives. When Sam Zell bought the Chicago Tribune for $8.2 billion in 2007 it was obviously an investment. Given Zell's reputation it was a safe bet employees would get hammered in the deal. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened.

Earlier this week when billionaire John Henry bought the Boston Globe from The New York Times (NYT) for $70 million, it was a case of a hometown guy doing the city a favor and maybe getting some synergy with the Red Sox, which Henry also owns.

Bezos is different. He arrived like an alien creature and snatched up a storied brand that had been in the same family since 1933. The knee jerk reaction was to think that Bezos must be working synergies with the company he founded, a notion Breakout co-Host Matt Nesto squashes in the attached video.

It's a personal investment by Bezos, Nesto notes. What the Amazon.com founder brings to the party is as much attitude as it is financial stability. "He's a can do guy, he's a positive guy. He's obviously well-connected in Washington. He's going to bring in energy and a positiveness and experimentation," he says.

In the roughly 15 years Jeff Bezos has been a public figure he's proven to be nothing if not honest. He promised to build Amazon for the long haul and he's been true to his word at every step.

The smart money says Bezos' strategy is sort of a mash-up of his Kindle experiment with Amazon and the Apollo 11 engine he bought last month. He bought something that's going to lose money for the foreseeable future that seems like it might be useful later, just like the Kindle. If he can't turn the paper around, The Washington Post will just be a worthless albeit expensive toy, just like the Rocket engine.

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