Jeff Bezos is one of the creators of the modern economy around here (and I literally mean around here, because Amazon.com’s buildings are a few blocks of The Seattle Times). He has made a success of Amazon. Maybe he can make a success of one of the country’s best daily newspapers.
I interviewed him only once. It was 1999, or maybe 1998. I was a business reporter at the old Seattle P-I. Amazon’s offices were in a seedy block of Seattle’s Second Avenue near the Pike Place Market, across the street from the Green Tortoise hostel and above an Indian restaurant. Bezos was then worth $9 billion in stock: Amazon’s sales were already large and growing, though I believe it had not yet made a profit.
The chief financial officer was there. I asked him about the company not making a profit and he said it could have a profit any time they wanted. All they had to do was slow the rate of growth–but they didn’t want to do that. They would make a profit later. Don’t worry.
He was right. Lots of dot-coms failed soon after that. Amazon didn’t.
Whether Bezos is right in buying the Post nobody does. But he is willing to commit big money, which is good, and he is patient, which is good. He has deep pockets. Also good.
Some people worry about his politics, which are libertarian. Well, so are mine, so I am not terrified, nor am I in the slightest bit worried that America will have a shortage of liberal newspapers. But I don’t think Bezos is buying the paper to stuff it full of his political opinions. He’s too smart to do that, and also too busy running Amazon.
I like that the Washington Post will be owned by a person, not a public corporation. Bezos’ name will be on it, his pride in it. Good.
Bezos is a long-term thinker.
Update 8:06 a.m.
Check out this interactive timeline from the Associated Press on the history of the Washington Post.
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