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Buffett: Why I didn't buy the Washington Post

October 23, 2013: 9:00 AM ET

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett reveals why he passed on the deal that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stepped up to.

By Carol Loomis

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

FORTUNE -- As the Graham family exits emotionally from the Washington Post newspaper, and new owner Jeff Bezos stays mum about his plans, some fresh details about who did not buy the paper have emerged.

Participating in a Q&A last week at Washington's Metropolitan Club, Warren Buffett, 83, spoke of his long-term affection for the paper and said he had "briefly" considered buying it when it went on sale earlier this year. But he then decided the purchase wouldn't work.

True, the company he heads, Berkshire Hathaway, was the largest shareholder of Washington Post Co; an owner of other newspapers: and a sort of natural buyer for the Post. But Buffett said that for him to have bought it for Berkshire would have saddled the next CEO (whoever that might be, taking office at an unknown date) with a metro newspaper that he or she possibly wouldn't want.

And to buy it personally, he added, would have at his death burdened his three children -- Susie, Howard, and Peter Buffett -- with the same kind of complex considerations.

MORE: Buffett: Debt limit is like virginity

So Buffett passed on the deal, despite his fond memories of having been a mega-deliverer of the Post when he was a teenager (at which time his father, Howard, was serving as a very conservative Republican Congressman from Nebraska) and his long-term close friendship with two CEOs of the Washington Post Co. (WPO), the late Katharine Graham and her son Don.

Amazon (AMZN) CEO Bezos, meanwhile, took over on October 1 and has so far spilled no secrets as to what strategy he plans for the Post. Said a Post spokesman to Fortune: "We don't have anything to share at this time."

The writer of this article, Carol Loomis, is a long-time friend of Warren Buffett's and a stockholder in his company, Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA). Talking about her Buffett book, Tap Dancing to Work, she joined him on stage at last week's Metropolitan Club event.

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