Sheldon Adelson distances himself from purchase of Las Vegas Review-Journal

U.S. reporters seeking to investigate the secrecy surrounding Sheldon Adelson's purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal have had to contend with a seasoned crisis management guru and silence from Adelson's camp.

But a reporter for the Macau Daily Times had no trouble getting in touch with Adelson for an interview about the billionaire casino mogul's business designs for the Chinese peninsula. During the discussion, touted as an "exclusive interview at a presidential suite" on the 37th floor of St Regis Macao, Adelson downplayed his involvement with his family's recent purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

You don’t tell your children what to do, I can’t tell my children what to do. They wanted to buy the newspaper, so they bought the newspaper. I don’t have anything to do with it, I have no financial interest. My money that the children have with which to buy the newspaper is their inheritance. I don’t want to spend money on a newspaper.

In December, reporters for Fortune and the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed that Adelson bankrolled his son-in-law's purchase of the newspaper for $140 million. Adelson was cagey about his stake in the newspaper in earlier comments, telling CNN that he had "no personal interest" in the Review-Journal.

The lead-in to the interview verges on fawning in places, with one paragraph referring to Adelson as a "fearless boss" who is both "visionary" and an "intrepid investor." Although most of the discussion focuses on Adelson's Macau casino operation, reporter Paulo Coutinho asked the GOP megadonor whether he plans to sway the Review-Journal's reporting:

We have about 200 journalists at the Israel Today newspaper. You could call any one of them and you say, “Did anybody from the Adelson family ever tell you what to write or what not to write?” and they will tell you, “No.” If somebody’s going to write something bad about me and [even if] there’s no justification for it, I won’t know about it until after it’s done.

Adelson's comments run contrary to speculation by observers in Las Vegas who suspect that his family's purchase of the city's major daily is a "power play" aimed at boosting its political clout. "More than a dozen" current and former Review-Journal staffers and city leaders told the New York Times on Saturday they viewed him, "based on his reputation in Las Vegas as a figure comfortable with using his money in support of his numerous business and political concerns."

Those concerns have been inflamed by circumstances surrounding Adelson's purchase of the Review-Journal. When his family was in talks to buy the newspaper, journalists from its newsroom were asked to monitor a judge with jurisdiction in a case involving Adelson's business interests. And Review-Journal publisher Jason Taylor is now demanding a heads-up from reporters and editors writing about Adelson's purchase of the newspaper, according to The New York Times.

The paper’s publisher, Jason Taylor, now requires reporters and editors to get written permission before any article regarding The Review-Journal or Mr. Adelson’s purchase of it is published.

Meanwhile, the paper is without a newsroom leader since the departure of editor Mike Hengel in December. The paper is planning to announce an interim editor ahead of a search for a more permanent replacement. Earlier Monday, POLITICO Media reported that Providence Journal Executive Editor Dave Butler is advising the Review-Journal while Hengel's successor is being found.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.


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