The surprise is not Jeff Bezos wanting to dump the paper plagued with problems, it is that another doomed enterprise looks better than the Washington Post.
The New York Post has a piece out where they cite a number of sources in the publishing and investment fields who indicate that billionaire Jeff Bezos could have The Washington Post on the auction block. Bezos has issued his own denials on the matter, yet a number of conflicting or intriguing wrinkles emerge to throw doubt on either side of the story. What makes this story all the more amusing is the detail of what could be his possible motivation behind a potential sale – he wants to buy another fiasco that is less embarrassing than his newspaper.
The word is Bezos would like to purchase the Washington Commanders, possibly the most troublesome franchise in the NFL. There are details behind this opportunity that lend credence to the possibility he is hanging a price tag on the paper. But also, there is little mystery as to why he might want to divest from the paper he bought in 2013.
There is not anyone who would be left wondering what would lead to Jeff Bezos placing the Washington Post on the market. For the entirety of last year, the news outlet was a constant source of shame and ridicule. Throughout 2022, the Post dispensed news items, breaking stories, and columns that were perpetually mocked and pointed at as problematic. Some of the paper’s most prolific writers were the editors who had to post the CORRECTIONS.
The leftist partisanship was on display all year, whether it was supportive coverage of abortion, critical pieces on Ron DeSantis (including their cartoonist depicting the governor poisoning kids), repeated error-prone critiques of Chris Rufo, and so many more. Then there were the hysterics witnessed when the newsroom was in meltdown in public for over a week because reporter Felicia Sonmez was outraged that columnist Dave Weigel retweeted someone else posting a joke. In the end, Weigel and Sonmez were both gone from the dysfunctional publication.
All you need to do is look over its staff. Taylor Lorenz was a particular source of embarrassment, landing at the top of my year-end compilation of the worst journalists of the year. But many of her co-workers appear throughout the list. From the fact-averse fact-checker Glenn Kessler to the common sense-challenged columnist Philip Bump, you see numerous staffers who would be worthy of pink slips, including the ever-imbalanced former conservatives Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot. There is little wonder Bezos might be looking at a different roster these days.
There are a pair of details that could be pointing to the legitimacy of the rumored sale. Bezos has hinted he may be in the market for the Commanders, a franchise steeped in scandals, with owner Dan Snyder all but forced to sell off the team by league officials. Snyder is said to be less than thrilled with selling his team to the man whose newspaper is seen as spearheading some of the investigations into the problems in the franchise executive offices.
Bank of America, who is handling the auction sale for Snyder, reportedly has been trying to persuade Bezos into making the offer. That brings up the other reality, which is that currently, Snyder has not yet received a qualifying bid for the Commanders. He is asking for at least seven billion dollars for the franchise, but the best offer received to this point is roughly $700 million shy of that reserve price. Sitting at Number Four on the list of richest men globally, Bezos would be in a position to move or negotiate at the level the team is looking to entertain.
The thought is that Bezos would not be selling the Post to cobble together funds. Instead, it would be seen more as a good-gesture gambit, divesting the perceived source of problems as a sign he does not want to further impact the team’s value and aims to negotiate in better faith.
Plus, the news outlet is not a needed capital infusion for the deal. He purchased the paper for a fraction of the price of the team – about $250 million – and it has possibly been devalued over recent years. The Post reportedly lost money in 2022, and it was shown that since January of 2021, readership has tanked, as it shed half a million subscribers, down from three million to 2.5 million. In December, there was fury in the news offices when one executive announced layoffs and then fled the scene.
One possible reason for Bezos not selling the paper? It is likely he has very few suitors for the failing publishing enterprise.