In a surprising turn, The Washington Post became the subject rather than the source of headlining news after Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of the Internet retail behemoth Amazon.com, bought the prestigious newspaper for $250 million—bringing to an end eight decades of leadership by the Graham family.
The 49-year-old Seattle billionaire will now be tasked with resuscitating the struggling publication, which, like many once-profitable newspapers, has suffered from decreased print advertising, a dip in circulation, new competitors like Craigslist, and a raft of websites that all but steal the Post's stories.
Bezos has largely stayed out of the limelight during his time at Amazon.com and is known for his privacy—here's a quick primer on his bio.
1. He’s the world’s 19th richest man: According to Forbes, Bezos’ net worth is a staggering $25.2 billion. That means he bought the Washington Post for less than 1% of his fortune. He was also named by the magazine as the 27th most powerful person in the world, falling in the same list as President Obama, Pope Benedict XVI and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
2. He started Amazon.com in his garage: Bezos, born in Albuquerque, N.M., graduated from Princeton in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. Afterward, he worked for a number of Wall Street companies, eventually quitting his job in 1994 as a vice president at the financial services firm D.E. Shaw in New York. The 30-year-old began selling books online from his garage in Bellevue, Wash., the origins of a company that eventually became Amazon.com.
3. He once said newspapers would not exist in 20 years: Bezos made the remarks to German paper Berliner-Zeitung last year. He said that while newspapers may exist as a luxury in some hotels, printed papers “won’t be normal” two decades from now.
4. He’s donated to mostly Democrats: Bezos has been described by friends as a libertarian, but he’s given donations to mostly Democrats and a few Republicans. That includes Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of his home state of Washington, in addition to Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont and Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. Republicans include former Sen. Edward Abraham of Michigan and former Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington. He’s also given regular donations to his Amazon corporate PAC, which donates to both parties.
5. He’s a big proponent of gay marriage: Last summer, Bezos and his wife pledged $2.5 million to defend Washington’s gay marriage law. It was seen as a counterpoint to fast food chain Chick-fil-A, whose president donated money to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage. According to the Seattle Times, Bezos’ contribution was one of the largest political contributions to the gay marriage campaign in the U.S.
6. He’s kind of a nerd: Last year, Amazon spent $775 million—more than three times the price of acquiring the Washington Post—on Kiva Systems, the company that specializes in making robots for warehouses. He’s also poured $42 million into a 200-foot clock that will tick on for 10,000 years and has invested heavily in a space fight company.
7. He claims the Post’s values will not change: In a statement, Bezos said “I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington, D.C., and our nation, and the Post's values will not change.” He’s also said there will be no layoffs and that he’ll keep Katharine Weymouth, CEO and Publisher Stephen P. Hills, President and General Manager, Martin Baron, Executive Editor; and Fred Hiatt, Editor of the Editorial Page to continue on with their roles.
8. He will remain in Seattle: Bezos said he won’t be leading the Post’s day-to-day coverage, adding “I am happily living in ‘the other Washington’ where I have a day job that I love.”