The last member of the family that owned US newspaper Washington Post for eight decades, before its sale to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos last year, is to step down as publisher of the former family business by the end of this month, the company has this week revealed.
Katharine Weymouth had been part of the business, bought by her great-grandfather in 1933, for 17 years and had been in her current role as chief executive and publisher for seven years.
Fred Ryan, 59, a former chief of staff for the Reagan administration and chairman of the former US president’s foundation, will replace her. He was the founding chief executive of Politico, a website and newspaper established in 2007.
The transition will be effective from 1 October, the newspaper said on Tuesday, but Weymouth will stay on the payroll as an adviser until the end of the year.
Reporting on its own leadership changes, the Washington Post said the move marked a new era focused on building its online platform and expanding its national and international audience.
Ryan told a Washington Post newsroom meeting he had known Jeff Bezos for some time.
In an official statement, Weymouth described the leadership change as “the beginning of a wonderful new chapter for The Post”, but told reporters at the paper that she was surprised by the timing of Bezos’s decision and had thought she was going to finish out the year. She was reportedly told about the changes in mid August.
The newspaper also reported that Weymouth had been privately complaining to friends that she had trouble communicating with Bezos and he often didn’t respond to her attempts to contact him.
In a statement, Bezos praised Weymouth for successfully implementing many new initiatives and ensuring the smooth change of ownership between the Graham family and himself.
Graham ownership of the paper began eight decades ago, when businessman Eugene Meyer bought it in a bankruptcy sale for $825,000. It went on to become the most influential paper in Washington DC, and its biggest scoop – exposing the Watergate scandal – brought down President Nixon.
The company went public in 1971, but the Grahams retained 70% ownership.
Bezos bought the Washington Post in a personal capacity, rather than through Amazon, paying $250 million for the daily.