Las Vegas Sun Wanted $20 Million Adelson Buyout, Claims Review-Journal in Antitrust Spat

Posted on: January 8, 2021, 02:37h. 

Last updated on: January 8, 2021, 03:15h.

Lawyers for the Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) went on the attack this week in their response to a lawsuit brought by a rival. They claimed that the publisher of the rival Las Vegas Sun sought $20 million from Adelson in 2015 to wind down the Sun’s operations.

Brian Greenspun, publisher of The Las Vegas Sun, was “eager to be bought out,” according to LVRJ lawyers. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The allegation came as the two parties filed pretrial motions in an ongoing antitrust lawsuit in which the left-leaning Sun accuses the conservative LVRJ of trying to run it into the ground.

The Sun claims that the Adelson family orchestrated a “calculated scheme” to monopolize the Las Vegas newspaper industry. That after taking ownership of LVRJ five years ago. It allegedly did this by attempting to “strangle the sole remaining competitor and dissenting voice,” according to the lawsuit filed by the Sun in November 2019.

Bickering Bedfellows

Since 1989, LVRJ and the Sun have been bound by a joint operating agreement (JOA) under the federal Newspaper Preservation Act (NPA). This Nixon-era law allows antitrust exemptions for newspapers operating in the same regional market, allowing them to combine production, marketing, distribution, and sales. That was provided they remain competitive and editorially independent of one another.

But when Adelson acquired LVRJ, he sued to have the agreement torn up, claiming the Sun was in breach of contract.

The Sun said that was a sham lawsuit designed to kill it, because Adelson knew it was “operationally and economically dependent” on LVRJ.

But now, LVRJ’s lawyers argue Sun publisher Brian Greenspun was hardly petrified of an Adelson newspaper monopoly in Las Vegas – at least, not if the price was right.

Mr. Greenspun never expressed any real concern about the printed Sun or its editorial voice ceasing to exist, in sharp contrast to assertions used in pleadings to this court in an effort to support the LV Sun’s sham litigation,” LVRJ lawyers claimed Monday. “To the contrary, Mr. Greenspun was eager to be bought out, repeatedly attempting to push the deal forward.”

Shadowy Adelson Takeover

The Adelson family purchased LVRJ anonymously, creating a surreal scenario in which the newspaper’s own reporters were left to investigate the identity of the owner. LVRJ broke the story of its new boss before any official announcement from the Adelson camp.

The three reporters who wrote that story left the newspaper shortly afterwards, and others followed, claiming articles pertaining to Adelson or LVS were being heavily edited or killed by new management.

Lawyers for LVRJ have denied the newspaper wants to put the Sun out of business, although this claim is somewhat contradicted by a front-page LVRJ editorial in August 2019 titled, “Why we want to stop printing the Sun.”

On Thursday, LVS announced in an official statement that Adelson would be taking medical leave to resume treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.