“Who owns a multimillion dollar newspaper?” is not a question you hear very often. But with the shrouded sale of the largest paper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, to an undisclosed owner, the question is being asked over and over.
What is known: News + Media Capital Group LLC — a newly formed Delaware-domiciled company backed by “undisclosed financial backers with expertise in the media industry” — paid $140 million for the Review-Journal and its sister publications.
That’s around $38 million more than New Media Investment Group paid for the all of Stephens Media LLC, a national chain of newspapers that included the Review-Journal, eight other dailies and 65 weekly newspapers. The amount points to investors with deep pockets and a perhaps even deeper desire to own Nevada’s biggest newspaper even though the paper’s revenues, like those of all print publications, have been in decline.
The owner’s anonymity has led to suggestions that a politically-minded person or group could have acquired in before the upcoming 2016 elections. Wrote media critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen in a Facebook post:
“One of the first thoughts I had was: Nevada is an early primary state. The Review-Journal is the largest newspaper in the state. Was it sold to a player in that event, or people who want to be players? That slightly conspiratorial thought may be way off base. Of course, there is no way to know as long as the ownership remains hidden. That’s the point.”
In a bizarre turn on Saturday, the paper’s publisher removed quotes from a Thursday night article about the sale and the owner’s anonymity, according to The Huffington Post. In the section, Michael Schroeder, manager for News + Media Capital Group LLC, had told the paper’s staff not to worry about who their company was owned by.
The removed sections read:
Schroeder said News + Media does not own his newspapers or any other publications. When asked, he would not disclose the company’s investors.
“They want you to focus on your jobs … don’t worry about who they are,” Schroeder said.
Review-Journal Editor Michael Hengel noted the lack of disclosure.
“The questions that were not answered Thursday are 1) Who is behind the new company, and 2) What are their expectations?” Hengel said.
However, if the reporters at the Las Vegas Review-Journal are any good at their jobs, then the owner won’t be anonymous for long.
Definitely one strong strategy for keeping your identity secret is to hire a building full of reporters.— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) December 11, 2015