In a web posting cheekily titled, “How I convinced the Grahams to sell to Bezos,” Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson made the case that businesses are run best when they are owned by one rich guy, as opposed to being publicly owned. That’s more than a little ironic because Meyerson is an arch-liberal who has often used his Post columns to rail at the richest “one percent.”
Meyerson’s comment Tuesday came the day after billionaire Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announced he was purchasing the Post from the Graham family, long-time majority shareholders of the publicly traded newspaper and media company. Bezos will take the company private.
This is good news, argued Meyerson, citing research that private owners of companies invest more in the more business than the heads of publicly-traded ones:
The problem with publicly traded companies, the economists concluded, is short-termism. Investors focus on quarterly earnings, which are often diminished by major long-term investments that don’t pay off for many years. And as most CEOs’ incomes are linked to the value of their company’s stock, their incentive to invest is correspondingly diminished.
He added that the Grahams “understood The Post stood a better chance of succeeding if it was taken private” because that would mean that the new owner “wouldn’t have to answer to shareholders.”
While that argument may suggest Meyerson is merely sucking up to his company’s new owner, he notes he made the same point in a column just days before the sale was announced.
It is not clear though that he completely understands the implications of his own argument: namely, that having wealthy “one percenters” like Bezos around with the resources to buy properties as expensive as the Post (sale price: $250 million in cash) is a boon because they can do things that collectively-owned businesses cannot.
The same day as his Bezos post went up, Meyerson had another column up railing against how “so much of (the country’s) wealth has been claimed by the very top” and that “the rich grew richer at everyone else’s expense.”
Umm, does Meyerson know that his newspaper’s savior is one of those one percenters?