decision to buy the Washington Post for $US250 millionremains a stunning, somewhat baffling move.
Even his biographer is not sure why he did it.
In an interview with The New Republic, Brad Stone said, “My reaction was sincere shock.”
Brad Stone, a reporter at Bloomberg Businessweek, has a big book on Amazon and Bezos coming out in October.
The reason he was stunned is that Bezos “has placed a big bet on disrupting what he calls the old gatekeepers … Now here he has gone and personally acquired what is one of the biggest and most well-known gatekeepers out there.”
Stone has been studying Bezos for a long time. He threw out two ideas about why Bezos bought the Post.
1. He views it as an opportunity to experiment with a media company to discover a new business model.
2. He can use the Washington Post for political influence.
Since the first reason is evident, and kind of boring, let’s take a look at the second. Here’s Stone’s full quote:
This is maybe going out on a little bit of a limb: but look, he’s buying a lot of political influence. And we can’t discard the fact that Amazon hasn’t been an enormous player, at least up until the dispute over sales taxes, and in buying The Washington Post, he has a seat at the table. And I think particularly legislators and anti-trust regulators are gonna be weighing the dominance of Amazon a lot in the years ahead.
This is an interesting, somewhat cynical, take. Stone’s not the only person we’ve seen tossing out this idea.
It’s entirely possible Bezos wanted to have more clout in D.C. This is a quick way to do just that. But, it’s hard to believe this would be the primary motivation.
In his letter to employees, he said, “The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.”
Perhaps we’re naive, but it sure doesn’t sound like he wants to use the Post to broadcast his world view.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.