The mystery is solved: billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is the (until now, unnamed) buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, according to Fortune, which first reported the news, citing unnamed sources familiar with the deal.
Adelson paid $140 million for the newspaper in a transaction arranged by his son-in-law, Patrick Dumont.
Dumont helped form the investment vehicle, News + Media Capital Group LLC, which acquired the LVRJ from its previous owner, New Media Investment Corp., with funding from Adelson. Adelson previously tried to acquire the LVRJ in February of this year, but its former owner, Stephens Media Group, sold the newspaper to New Media instead.
Adelson’s ownership of Nevada’s biggest newspaper may raise questions about its editorial integrity in light of his involvement in the casino industry. Liberal pundits were also quick to point out Adelson’s heavy involvement in politics as a prominent donor to the Republican Party, and the potential influence he could wield over public opinion through the LVRJ in a swing state,
(Nevada voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and George H.W. Bush in 1988).
Adelson hasn’t hesitated to use his ownership of news media organizations to attempt to influence politics abroad. In 2007, he launched a free daily newspaper in Israel, Israel Hayom, which supports right-wing Israeli politicians including Benjamin Netanyahu. It earned the nickname “Bibiton,” a combination of his nickname and the Hebrew word for newspaper. It is now the largest circulation newspaper in the country.
Last year, Adelson bought two more Israeli newspapers, Makor Rishon and NRG. Israeli political commentators allege that the newspapers, under his ownership, don’t confine their political leanings to the op-ed pages, but have allowed them to influence their editorial coverage as well.
By trying to remain anonymous, Adelson may have ended up attracting more attention than if he’d gone public from the beginning.
After the acquisition was first announced, in an article about the deal published by the LVRJ editor Michael Hengel was quoted as saying, “The questions that were not answered Thursday are 1.) Who is behind the new company? and 2) What are their expectations?”
The quote was later removed from the article. But this week, U.S. Representative Dina Titus (D), along with the Society of Professional Journalists and American Society of News Editors, chimed in, also calling for the new owners to identify themselves.
Adelson finally confirmed his ownership of the LVRJ with a statement published in the newspaper Thursday morning. Adelson claimed he didn’t intend to remain anonymous forever, but was waiting until after the Republican candidates’ debate hosted at his casino, The Venetian, in order not to distract from the event.