LAS VEGAS >> 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.
The statement printed on page 2 of Thursday’s edition follows the announcement last week that the paper was sold for a second time this year to an unidentified buyer and at a markup, leading to scrutiny about a lack of transparency and capturing the attention of the media industry.
“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 of the R-J,” the statement read.
The Adelsons say they held back because they didn’t want an announcement to distract from Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate held at the Venetian, the casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip that is part of Adelson’s empire. Adelson, a major GOP donor, said at the debate that he had “no personal interest” in owning the paper.
The timing of the sale and the purchase price had pundits theorizing that Adelson bought the largest newspaper in a swing state to influence the presidential election.
Nevada is fourth in the primary process, with balloting in February. In the 2012 campaign, the Adelson family spent more than any other donor — about $90 million.
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.
The newspapers have a joint operating agreement, with the Sun delivered alongside the Review-Journal. 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.
Gatehouse Media LLC, a subsidiary of the previous owner, will keep running the Review-Journal, which has a Sunday circulation of 184,000. The publisher has said that the new owners won’t be involved in news and editorial decisions.
News + Media Capital Group LLC bought the paper and some affiliated publications for $140 million, a markup of about 37 percent from the paper’s last sale earlier this year, when the similarly named New Media Investment Group bought it. The new buyer was incorporated in September.
News + Media’s manager, Michael Schroeder, said Thursday that he couldn’t immediately provide more information. Publisher Jason Taylor and Ron Reese, a spokesman for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
For some, the sale still raises questions.
Andrew Seaman, the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee chairman, wondered why the new owners decided to go through such great pains to conceal their identity.
“No one has gone through the lengths to keep secrets like this,” Seaman said.
Ken Doctor, a media analyst, crunched the numbers and said the previous owner effectively flipped the newspaper for a profit. Adelson had been pursuing the publication and then ended up paying three times the paper’s worth, perhaps a sign of a new breed of newspaper owner: the political buyer.
“This is becoming a Monopoly game. The losers in this are the readers of the daily American newspaper,” Doctor said.
The Adelsons say the paper was purchased as an investment both financially and in the Las Vegas community. They 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,” the statement said.