The Washington Post is on track to lose a staggering $100 million in 2023, almost 40 percent of the $250 million Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid for the company almost a decade ago.
According to a report from The New York Times, a driving factor behind the fall in revenue is that the company has “struggled to increase the number of its paying customers since the 2020 election, when its digital subscriptions peaked at three million.” That number has since fallen to 2.5 million.
Bezos purchased the iconic broadsheet back in 2013 in one of America’s largest-ever media acquisitions. Following the victory of Donald Trump in 2016, the paper adopted the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” and became a fervent critic of the former president’s administration.
Yet despite Bezos’ extremely deep pockets, the former Amazon CEO has been unable to turn the Post’s profits around.
Feeling frustrated with the company’s lack of growth, a source close to Bezos told the Times that his interest in the paper “receded somewhat.”
However, this situation reportedly changed in January when the executive editor Sally Buzbee reached out personally to Bezos to express her concerns.
“That changed in January, after Ms. Buzbee spoke with Mr. Bezos and conveyed an urgent message: Morale was low at The Post,” the Times reported. “Much of it, she said, stemmed from missteps by the newspaper’s chief business executive, [Fred Ryan, former chief executive of Politico, whom Bezos hired as publisher] according to two people familiar with her remarks.”
Since that conversation, Bezos has reportedly taken a greater interest in the company and its internal happenings.
“In January, Mr. Bezos made a rare appearance in the newsroom,” the Times reported.
“He sat in on a morning news meeting, and later in the day he met with a handful of Post journalists,” the report continued. “During some of his gatherings, several Post employees expressed concerns about Mr. Ryan’s missteps and the direction of the paper.”
Ryan departed the company in June to take a job with the Reagan Foundation. A source within the Post told the Times they were unsure whether he was fired or left of his own accord.
“Hard to say whether he was pushed or jumped… We’re still hiring, still expanding,” the source said. “But Fred is 68. So… if I had to guess—and it’s strictly that—I’d say Bezos is getting impatient and wanted to get fresh blood. Pretty clear Bezos is worried.”
In a statement to the Times, interim executive Patty Stonesifer insisted they remained optimistic about the future.
“I’m very enthusiastic about what we can do here at The Washington Post in the decade ahead,” said Stonesifer. “Jeff’s second decade of ownership of The Post should be even more exciting.”
Back in January, there were reports that Bezos was considering offloading the company to help finance a bid for the NFL’s Washington Commanders.
These claims were later denied by a Bezos spokesperson, who maintained the company is not and never has been for sale.