And it was Sheldon Adelson’s newest employees that uncovered the clandestine purchase. The man who invested $92 million in the GOP’s 2012 efforts has taken Glenn Reynolds’ oft-offered advice to conservatives to invest in media outlets instead. The owner of the Venetian-Palazzo resort complex in Las Vegas (the site of this week’s Republican debate) now owns Nevada’s largest newspaper:
The son-in-law of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson arranged the $140 million purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Adelson’s behalf, sources confirmed Wednesday.
Patrick Dumont, who is listed on the website of Las Vegas Sands Corp. as the company’s senior vice president of finance and strategy, put together the deal at the behest of his father-in-law, the chairman and CEO of the casino operator. …
Another source familiar with the deal said Sheldon Adelson, 15th on the Forbes 400 List of Billionaires with a net worth of $24.5 billion, funded the transaction. Dumont helped create News + Media Capital Group LLC, which acquired the Review-Journal and several smaller Nevada newspapers last week from New Media Investment Corp.
A source said Dumont also led Adelson’s previous attempt to acquire the Review-Journal from former owner Stephens Media LLC before the February sale to New Media Investment. He could not be reached for comment. Sivan Ochshorn Dumont, reached at the couple’s Las Vegas home, hung up before answering a reporter’s questions Wednesday.
The structure of the deal leaves Adelson with an arms-length relationship with the newspaper, at least officially. The LVRJ will operate under Dumont’s direction, but James DeHaven, Howard Stutz and Jennifer Robison make it clear in their reporting that Adelson wanted the purchase and directed Dumont to make it happen. Dumont’s funding for the deal comes from a “wholly owned” fund within the Adelson empire.
Brian Stelter reports for CNN (the broadcast partner for the debate, along with Hot Air’s parent company Salem Media Group) that Adelson didn’t intend on keeping the nature of the acquisition secret for long. They wanted to wait until after the debate, but the week between the sale and the announcement had LVRJ reporters worried:
“We understand the desire of the hard-working staff at the R-J and others in the community to know the identity of the paper’s new owners, and it was always our intention to publicly announce our ownership,” the family statement said.
Why the delay? “This week, with each of the Republican candidates for president 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 presidential election.”
To answer concerns that Adelson bought the newspaper to push his views, the statement confirms that the prior management team will remain in place. However, what would be the problem with Adelson choosing the newspaper’s editorial direction? Newspapers in large part exist because wealthy businessmen wanted platforms for their political and social views. As long as those views are transparent and limited to the opinion sections, that shouldn’t present a problem. There hasn’t been much editorial-direction concern over the Sulzberger family’s iron grip on the New York Times, for instance, or Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post. Facebook mogul Chris Hughes bought The New Republic, and the only strum und drang in the media over that purchase has been how Hughes has turned it into an ideological mediocrity, or worse.
It’s worth revisiting Glenn’s advice from three years ago:
For $150 million, you could buy or start a lot of women’s Web sites. And I’d hardly change a thing in the formula. The nine articles on sex, shopping and exercise could stay the same. The 10th would just be the reverse of what’s there now.
For the pro-Republican stuff, well, just visit the “Real Mitt Romney” page at snopes.com, or look up the time Mitt Romney rescued a 14-year-old kidnap victim, to see the kind of feel-good stories that could have been running. For the others, well, it would run articles on whether Bill Clinton should get a pass on his affairs, whether it’s right that the Obama White House pays women less than men, and reports on how the tax system punishes women.
This stuff writes itself, probably more easily than the Spin Sisters’ pabulum. And opening up a major beachhead in this section of the media is probably a lot cheaper than challenging major newspapers and TV networks head on.
Give Adelson credit for getting creative with his activism. In order for that to work, the reporting has to remain at a high quality (the LVRJ has that reputation already) and produce credible work, and that means applying scrutiny fairly to all sides. And if that happens, it might even serve as a model for some other media outlets in the future, too.