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Vegas mystery solved: Sheldon Adelson was behind purchase of Review-Journal

The mystery of who owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal was finally solved Wednesday when the newspaper itself confirmed that billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is the source of the financing behind the purchase, with his son-in-law acting on Adelson’s behalf.

Adelson, chief executive of the Fortune 500 company Las Vegas Sands Corp., had denied in an interview Tuesday with CNN that he had any “personal interest” in the newspaper after it was sold to an unknown buyer on Dec. 11. 

But the Review-Journal reported Wednesday night that Patrick Dumont, Adelson’s son-in-law and a Sands Corp. vice president, arranged the $140-million purchase, putting the leadership of one of the state’s largest companies firmly behind the purchase of its largest newspaper.

News + Media Capital Group, a Delaware-based corporation founded in September, purchased the Review-Journal and its sister publications on Dec. 11. The sale raised eyebrows for its price — far more than the $102 million paid in March for the Review-Journal and seven other daily newspapers — and because the owner of News + Media Capital Group refused to be identified.

Sands Corp. representatives did not respond to repeated calls and emails from the Los Angeles Times.

The Review-Journal reported in a triple-bylined, copyrighted story posted Wednesday night that the 41-year-old Dumont brokered the deal and led a previous attempt by Adelson to buy the newspaper.

The Review-Journal reported that Dumont’s wife, Sivan Ochshorn Dumon, hung up when reached by a reporter.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fortune magazine reported that Adelson was behind the paper’s purchase, citing multiple sources. “Mystery solved, but we still don’t understand why it was a big secret in the first place,” the magazine wrote.

Adelson's wealth, prominent connections and apparent designs on a kingmaker role in the Republican Party led to speculation that he was behind the purchase. 

Adelson, one of the richest men in the world and a passionate supporter of Israel, is routinely courted by office-seekers, from the White House down, who make the pilgrimage to his business headquarters on the Las Vegas Strip to seek his blessing.

In the last presidential campaign, he and his wife, Miriam, spent about $100 million, and the couple are expected to generously help whomever they endorse for president in 2016. Adelson's Venetian resort hosted Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate.

Speculation immediately turned to the political influence that Adelson could exert in his home state, a major presidential battleground in November 2016, and host to early Democratic and Republican nominating contests as well as a highly competitive U.S. Senate race.

It is not as though Adelson is a political neophyte or that his Republican leanings would represent a dramatic shift for the Review-Journal, which has long had a conservative editorial page and, critics say, a penchant for allowing those sentiments to bleed into its news coverage.

Conversely, critics detect a pro-Democratic bias in the paper’s much smaller rival, the Las Vegas Sun, which is owned by Brian Greenspun, a longtime friend and political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

There is a long history in Nevada of publishers wielding their newspapers for personal benefit, notes Michael Green, a native Las Vegan and professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

He suggested, though, the opportunity may be lessened in an age of dramatically shrunken circulation and access to the Internet, “where readers now have so many different ways to get the information they seek.”

In 2010, the Review-Journal aggressively opposed the reelection of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in both its editorial and news pages. Reid handily won a fifth term, and the editor and publisher of the newspaper soon departed.

But Reid and other Democratic politicians didn't appear worried about a change in ownership at the R-J, as it's known. The paper’s conservative bent, they said, made it a logical purchase by a rich Vegas conservative.

“I don’t know who bought the newspaper for sure, but I guarantee the editorial policy couldn’t be any worse than it has been for 10 years,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) joked to reporters on Tuesday, before the details of the sale were made known.

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FOR THE RECORD

8:10 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly said that Sen. Harry Reid made his comment to reporters on Wednesday. 

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Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat who represents the Las Vegas region in Congress, said before the details emerged that she would not believe anything about the new owner until she heard directly from the source.

“I don’t think the community can accept the information in the R-J as credible if they don’t know who’s behind it, regardless of who that might be,” Titus said. “Whoever it is needs to come out and say, ‘I own the paper.' "

Adelson has had a difficult, at times pugilistic, relationship with the media, and the Review-Journal specifically. In one instance, Adelson sued Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, a legal fight that the newspaper reported on Wednesday bankrupted the columnist.

The newspaper’s editorial board said the paper, after days of mystery over the identity of its new buyer, has little ground to criticize other organizations for failing to be transparent with the public.

“Does the Review-Journal have the credibility to advocate for such openness?” the editorial board wrote Wednesday. “Not so much anymore.”

Follow @nigelduara and @markzbarabak on Twitter

Barabak reported from San Francisco and Duara reported from Tucson. Times staff writer Noah Bierman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

Update

9:54 p.m.: This story was updated with confirmation that Sheldon Adelson was the financing source behind the transaction and other details.

7:15 p.m.: This story was updated with additional background on Sheldon Adelson.

This story originally published at 5:48 pm.

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