Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s share of the Washington Post Co. would bring about $46 million from the sale of its newspaper division to Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos.
The sale, announced Monday, came as a surprise, and Bezos pledged to support its mission as a privately owned journalism organization.
Warren Buffett, Berkshire's chairman and CEO, is a close adviser to the Graham family, which owned the District of Columbia newspaper for four generations. He first invested in the Post in 1973 and served on its board of directors until 2011.
Post publisher Donald Graham quoted Buffett Monday in a message to Post employees as calling Bezos “the ablest CEO in America,” the Post reported.
Berkshire had purchased 18.4 percent of the Post for about $11 million and listed the value of its Post shares at $1.37 billion in 2007.
A year later, after the near-meltdown of the financial industry and the start of the Great Recession, Berkshire showed the Post's market value at $674 million. In 2009 the Post dropped off Berkshire's list of major holdings, although the shares would be worth about $1 billion at Monday's closing price on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Post Co. said Monday that it had agreed to sell the flagship newspaper and related publications to Bezos for $250 million cash. The Post has other businesses that would remain with that company, including the career education company Kaplan Inc. and cable and broadcast TV stations.
Buffett would still own 18.4 percent of the remaining Post Co. and its businesses, although the value of that holding was unclear Monday.
The Post said the newspaper sale would be completed within 60 days and Amazon, an online sales giant based in Seattle, would have no role in the purchase. The Post Co. would adopt a new name and continue as a publicly traded company without the newspaper.
Since the December 2011 purchase of The World-Herald, Berkshire has purchased more than two dozen daily newspapers in small and medium-sized markets, cities where Buffett said residents have a strong sense of community and where newspapers report local news of interest to readers.
Newspapers in large metropolitan areas may be less successful, he has said, because it's more difficult to cover local news that is important to individual readers, such as high school sports and local government.
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.