Citing “multiple sources familiar with the situation,” Dan Primack of Fortune is reporting that the 82-year-old billionaire, casino magnate, and Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson is the unnamed investor who acquired Nevada’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for $140 million last week:
Fortune has learned from multiple sources familiar with the situation that it is Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. Adelson, a major Republican Party donor who hosted Tuesday night’s debate at his Venetian property, had been widely rumored to be the buyer — including by employees at the Review-Journal itself, which this morning ran a front-page story that detailed Adelson’s ties to Michael Schroeder, a regional Connecticut newspaper publisher who was the only person listed on regulatory filings related to the sale.
Over the past few days, Adelson has refused to confirm or deny speculation that he is in fact the mysterious investor who purchased the Review-Journal, whose reporters and editors have called for their new owner to step forward. Media critics have demanded the new owner identify himself as well.
If Fortune’s reporting is correct, the Review-Journal would be the third media property, and the second major newspaper, under Adelson’s control. In 2007, the billionaire founded the daily tabloid Israel Hayom (Israel Today), which went on to become the largest newspaper in the State of Israel. Seven years later, he acquired another Israeli paper, the smaller right-wing weekly Makor Rishon, along with the website assets of the defunct centrist daily Maariv, which merged with Makor Rishon in 2012.
Sheldon’s acquisition of the Review-Journal, if true, raises the question of whether he would try to shape the paper’s political coverage. After all, Israel Hayom is widely known for its steadfast support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the political agenda of his party, the center-right Likud. The much smaller Makor Rishon, meanwhile, is explicitly marketed toward religious and conservative Israelis; according to the left-wing magazine 972, the paper remains influential among Israeli settlers, who live in neighborhoods and extralegal outposts established within the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, in violation of international law.
In other words, Adelson’s stable of media properties tend to mirror his own political ideology, which is militantly pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. Last year, during a debate held at the Israeli American Council in Washington, D.C., he claimed that “the Palestinians are an invented people” and “the purpose of the existence of Palestinians is to destroy Israel.” Adelson’s political activism in the United States has, by extension, largely focused on supporting Republican candidates who promise to support Israel over the Palestinians. Considering the success of his strategy in Israel, obtaining control of a powerful paper in a major swing state could certainly come in handy.
All of that said, Adelson has not yet confirmed Fortune’s report. We’ve reached out to a spokesperson for his company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and will update this post if we hear back.
Update – 10:50 pm
Citing sources close to the Adelson family, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that it was indeed Adelson who purchased the paper, and that the deal was arranged by his son-in-law, Patrick Dumont. Dumont is married to Adelson’s wife’s second daughter from a previous marriage, Sivan Dumon, who oversees operations of Israel Hayom.