“Leonard Downie, who was executive editor from 1991 to 2008, told me, “Don hated all the cutting, and he just didn’t want to cut anymore. His hope is that Bezos will invest. It’s a family company, so he doesn’t have the obligations of a public company. And the hope is that, like with the Kindle and Amazon, he’ll invest deeply, and his vision will prove out.… I told several senior editors here that it will be an exciting time, but how it will come out I am not sure. Warren Buffett”—a friend and business mentor to the Graham family for decades—“also concluded that Bezos is someone with long-term vision.”
Graham started talking to Bezos several months ago, then they stopped talking for a while, and then they met again at a conference in July. By all accounts, the price they settled on was, in the modern age, generous. A decade ago, the Post might have sold for several times that or more.
There are two mysteries remaining in this story: the inner workings of the Graham family and the intentions of Jeff Bezos. What conversations and disagreements transpired between and among Donald, his three siblings, and Katharine Weymouth, are, for the moment, a fog. Donald Graham insisted to me that he got “zero pressure” from his family to sell: “We love the place. So does every Graham.”
Bezos made a statement saying all the correct and anodyne things, but he was not terribly revealing. He rarely is. How much is he interested in using the political influence of the Post as an instrument of his main business? Why would he buy such a traditional media outlet rather than start another Internet enterprise of his own? The Graham family tried hard to assure everyone that this was for the best, that Donald Graham has known Bezos for fifteen years and trusts him to do the right thing: invest for the long term in real journalism. (“Jeff is a man of enormous personal decency,” Graham said.)”
“The pattern of a newspaperman’s life is like the plot of ‘Black Beauty,’ ” A. J. Liebling wrote. “Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in…