By Jennifer Saba
(Reuters) - Donald Graham, the chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Co, started talking to Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos less than a month before cinching a $250 million deal to sell the flagship newspaper to the tech entrepreneur.
"I asked him why he wanted to do it and his reasons are the best ones: he believes in what newspapers do and what the Post does and that it's important to the country," Graham said in a phone interview on Monday.
Graham said that he and his niece Katharine Weymouth, the Post's publisher, made the decision to put the newspaper up for sale earlier this year after looking at its financial forecasts.
"For the first time in either of our lives we said to each other: is ownership by the Washington Post Co the best thing for the newspaper? We could keep it alive, that wasn't the issue. The issue was could we make it strong," Graham said.
The company announced the deal earlier on Monday, a move that would end the Graham family's 80-year ownership of one of the country's most influential publications.
Washington Post Co retained Allen & Co to start gauging interest from potential buyers early this year. "We had conversations with no more than a dozen other parties," Graham said, declining to name anyone other Bezos.
"To my surprise, when (Allen & Co) said they would call him. I said that would be great but I didn't think he would be interested," he added.
After a few months of silence, Bezos and Graham decided to meet during Allen & Co's annual media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho in early July. They had two meetings, Graham said.
"I named a price and Jeff agreed to pay it," he said.
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Tiffany Wu, Bernard Orr)