Last Thursday afternoon, the staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s largest newspaper, was summoned to a meeting with the publisher, Jason Taylor. No topic was specified; employees wondered if the paper’s corporate owners, who had purchased the publication in March, might be getting a new headquarters to replace its dingy, windowless, inner-city warehouse.
Instead, they learned that the paper had again been sold—and the buyer was a secret.
The new owner, News + Media Capital Group, was a mysterious entity that had come out of nowhere. Incorporated in Delaware in September, its only public representative was a Connecticut newspaper publisher named Michael Schroeder, who issued a statement and declined to speak further. Whoever the new owners were, they appeared to have dramatically overpaid. In March, the Review-Journal (“the R-J” to locals) had been sold along with seven other daily newspapers and 65 local weeklies in seven states for $102.5 million. News + Media had paid $140 million for the R-J alone.
Who would pay way too much for a random local broadsheet in a financially troubled industry? It would have to be someone whose goal wasn’t to make money, but to control a major apparatus of the Las Vegas media. Speculation swirled over the weekend, quickly centering around Sheldon Adelson, the shadowy right-wing billionaire who serves as chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire. The paper’s own reporters publicly decried the lack of transparency, and set to work investigating the matter. (I worked at the R-J for three and a half years, serving as the paper’s Vegas-based political writer from 2006 to 2009.)