Sheldon Adelson confirmed as buyer of Las Vegas Review-Journal

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adelson family confirms ownership of Las Vegas newspaper.

The family of billionaire casino mogul and GOP kingmaker Sheldon Adelson confirmed in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they are the new owners of Nevada’s largest newspaper, ending a week of speculation and demands by staff, media watchdogs and politicians to know the identity of the new boss. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and Republican donor, is the buyer who paid $140 million for the city’s hometown newspaper, ending days of secrecy over the new owner that has transfixed media watchers.The sale gives Adelson a pivotal role in the upcoming primaries as his newspaper is the largest in Nevada, which will be a key state for presidential hopefuls to bag at the start of the election cycle.

There will certainly be those who cry foul — especially on the political left and among good-journalism types — now that a massive GOP donor owns such a politically influential paper. Speculation over who bought the newspaper started last week after an entity called News + Media Capital Group LLC announced the purchase of the publication and some of its sister papers in Nevada from New Media Investment Group. Adelson has already shown, through his ownership of the Israel Hayom newspaper, that he can use a publication in his portfolio to promote a conservative agenda.

The timing of the sale and the purchase price had Twitter buzzing and rumors flying that Adelson bought the largest newspaper in a swing state to influence the presidential election. But more troubling than Adelson’s role in purchasing the Review-Journal, first reported by Fortune, is his apparent effort to remain anonymous in that role. The Review-Journal reported Thursday the transaction was arranged by Patrick Dumont, the son-in-law of the 82-year-old Adelson and a senior vice president at Las Vegas Sands, citing unidentified sources. In fact, Adelson told CNN at Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas that he had “no personal interest” in the Review-Journal and even suggested that the buyer could have been another gambling magnate, Steve Wynn — statements that were highly misleading, at best. Brian Greenspun, CEO and publisher of the rival Las Vegas Sun, said he welcomes the Adelson family to the journalism neighborhood and that any success under the new ownership would be good for them both.

It put the editorial board in an awkward position during an endorsement interview with Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who tweeted about the oddity of not knowing whom, exactly, he might be trying to impress. The family, citing their involvement in the community’s charitable and civic causes, pledged to invest in the paper. ‘We believe deeply that a strong and effective daily newspaper plays a critical role in keeping our state apprised of the important news and issues we face on a daily basis.’ Gatehouse Media LLC, a subsidiary of the previous owner, will keep running the publication with a Sunday circulation of 184,000. Greenspun says there will clearly be some political differences between the two papers, “but that just makes for good reading.” He was once roommates with former President Bill Clinton and has supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Adelson, ranked 31th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a fortune estimated at $22.6 billion, spent millions of dollars trying to get Republicans elected in 2012.

And the Review-Journal referenced its predicament in an editorial on Tuesday that called for the terms of a local teachers’ contract to be made public. The announcement merited a front-page headline and led to an interview with the paper’s foreign editor, who wrote that “Rubio may be the most pro-Israel presidential candidate that America has to offer.” Might the newspaper cover or ignore a story, or might this editorial page support a position, person or plan, because it directly benefits the Review-Journal’s owners?

As for the political questions that will certainly follow: Despite spending millions on Newt Gingrich in the 2012 Republican primary, Adelson hasn’t thrown his support or his money behind any 2016 candidate yet. (The conventional wisdom is that he favors Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.) If he does back Rubio or another candidate, Review-Journal readers will be able to judge for themselves whether his political activity is affecting coverage.

And even without a candidate endorsement, they can monitor how the paper reports on Adelson’s pet political causes, such as a one-state solution in Israel. It’s certainly possible for media outlets to continue producing high-quality journalism under the stewardship of politically active, super-wealthy buyers. Bezos has donated primarily to Democratic candidates and causes and notably made a $2.5 million contribution in 2012 to help defend same-sex marriage in the state of Washington, where Amazon is headquartered. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News Channel and has a reputation as a conservative (although he’s not quite as conservative as you might think), bought the Wall Street Journal in 2007, and the paper remains arguably the nation’s leading business-focused publication.

This week, with each of the Republican presidential candidates and the national media descending on Las Vegas for the year’s final debate, we did not want an announcement to distract from the important role Nevada continues to play in the 2016 presidential election.” Sorry, but that’s hard to believe. Adelson is savvy enough to know that he couldn’t remain anonymous forever — too many people were trying to crack the case — but he can’t expect many people to buy the idea that he was merely acting out of deference. And that raises legitimate questions about his motives, leaving Review-Journal readers and journalists to wonder what else he might try to do behind the scenes.

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