Allen & Co., an investment banking firm which held a high-level conference for media and technology executives in Sun Valley, Idaho, last month, was named as an adviser to the deal. Bezos and Graham have been known to frequent the conference.
To observers, the Amazon chief is eminently qualified to be a newspaper owner: He’s rich, he’s innovative and he’s willing to live with slim profits. That’s proven by his running of Amazon since its foundation. Last month, Amazon.com Inc. reported an unexpected loss in the April-June quarter even though revenue grew 22 percent to $15.7 billion.
‘‘Some other buyers might see the Post as a thing to drain money out of,’’ said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. ‘‘There’s little reason to think (Bezos would) fall into that category.’’
Rick Edmonds, a media and business analyst at The Poynter Institute, a journalism school, compared Bezos’ purchase of the Post to billionaire John Henry’s $70 million purchase of The Boston Globe, which was announced Saturday.
The newspaper transactions remove established publications from publicly traded parent companies that had to answer to shareholders who demanded good quarterly financial results.
‘‘This means putting the Post in the hands of a wealthy individual who can take as long as he needs and spend as much money as he wishes in keeping the paper strong,’’ Edmonds said. ‘‘That’s a much better situation than a company with other faster-growing businesses trying to justify that same investment.’’
Alan Mutter, a media consultant and former newspaper editor, said this deal marks the first time a newspaper has been bought by a ‘‘digital native,’’ not someone entrenched in the print medium.
‘‘Here’s a guy who’s going to re-envision the newspaper from top to bottom and we'll see what we get,’’ Mutter said.
The soon-to-be-renamed Washington Post company will retain Slate magazine, TheRoot.com and Foreign Policy magazine, as well as the Post’s headquarters building in downtown Washington.
Newspaper revenue has shriveled during the past eight years even as many publishers charged readers more for their print editions and began imposing fees for digital access, too.
The Post Co.’s annual newspaper revenue has plunged 39 percent from $957 million in 2005 to $582 million last year. Meanwhile, the company’s newspaper division has swung from an annual operating profit of $125 million to an operating loss of $54 million last year.
Readership of the print editions has also plummeted during the past decade. In 2002, The Washington Post’s paid weekday circulation averaged nearly 768,000 copies, according to regulatory filings. By last year, the Post’s weekday paid circulation had fallen to an average of just under 481,000, a 37 percent drop.
The hard times are reflected in the Post Co.’s stock price, which hit a high of $999.50 near the end of 2004. The shares closed Monday at $568.70, a 43 percent decline from the peak.
Newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc. said the Grahams likely realized that the family lacked the financial wherewithal to endure the turbulence still facing the industry.
‘‘As they look out beyond 2013, it’s clear print advertising is going to continue to decline and it’s causing pressures they didn’t expect,’’ Doctor said.
In contrast, sustaining annual losses of about $10 million for a few more years is more tolerable to Bezos and other billionaires such as Warren Buffett, who has also been buying newspapers in the past few years, Doctor said.
Benchmark Co. analyst Ed Atorino said the sales of the Boston Globe and Washington Post demonstrate that some savvy business leaders still see hope for newspapers.
‘‘Apparently there are people in this country who think these newspapers are worth saving and hope that advertising will eventually stabilize and they can begin to make money again,’’ Atorino said. ‘‘If the advertising doesn’t come back, then game over.’’
Associated Press writers Brett Zongker, Marcy Gordon and Jessica Gresko in Washington, Michael Liedtke in San Francisco and Barbara Ortutay in New York contributed to this report.