Washington Post sold to Jeffrey Bezos for $250 million

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- In an announcement that shocked readers and employees, Washington Post officials confirmed Monday that they are selling the paper to founder Jeff Bezos.

The Post says Bezos will pay $250 million in cash to become the paper's sole owner.

"It was very surprising, nobody knew it was for sale," said Post Vice President-at-Large Leonard Downie.

In an interview posted online, Post Company Chief Executive Donald Graham -- who belongs to a family that has run the paper for nearly 80 years -- explained why he and his niece, publisher Katharine Weymouth, decided to sell.

"Katherine and I started to look at the numbers -- realized that this year, 2013, would be the seventh straight year of significant declining revenues," he said. "We knew we could keep the Post alive. We knew it could survive. But our aspirations for the Post have always been higher than that."

Graham told employees he believes the sale gives the paper a chance not just to survive, but to succeed.

Bezos plans to continue living in Seattle while running the newspaper from afar. He is one of the world's richest men thanks to what he has done with Amazon, but the newspaper business will be a new venture for him.

Downie has been with the Washington Post nearly 50 years, and believes Bezos is the type of innovator who can help the Post -- which like many newspapers, has seen circulation numbers fall due to customers who prefer the internet -- better transition to the digital age.

"Jeff Bezos understands this new world that we're in, and that all news organizations have to adapt to, whether it's Channel 7 or the Washington Post," Downie said. "Katherine read a statement from him in which he made clear that he strongly subscribes to the journalistic values of the Washington Post, and that for me of course is the most important thing."

Bezos does not plan to make major changes right off the bat. The Post says he will keep the paper's current leadership in place.