Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas Review-Journal Sued by Las Vegas Sun for ‘Strangling Competition’

Posted on: September 25, 2019, 03:19h. 

Last updated on: November 1, 2019, 07:02h.

LVS Corp casino mogul Sheldon Adelson began a “calculated scheme” to monopolize the Las Vegas newspaper industry by “strangling the sole remaining competitor and dissenting voice” after he purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015. That’s according to an antitrust lawsuit filed this week by said competitor, The Las Vegas Sun.

Sheldon Adelson
The Las Vegas Sun lawsuit accuses 86-year-old billionaire Adelson of trying to put it out of business in a bid to gain “100 percent monopoly power” over print media in Nevada. (Image: Yuya Shino/Reuters)

Competitors they may be, but since 1989, LVRJ and the Sun have been bound by a 50-year joint operating agreement (JOA), authorized by the federal Newspaper Preservation Act (NPA) and approved by the Department of Justice.

The Nixon-era law permits certain antitrust exemptions for newspapers operating in the same market area, allowing them to combine production, marketing, distribution, and sales, provided they remain competitive and editorially independent of one another. It was hoped this would keep more regional newspapers afloat.

But LVRJ recently sued to extricate itself from the JOA, claiming breach of contract. The Sun lawsuit claims the litigation is “baseless and unlawful,” and brought solely because Adelson knows the Sun is “operationally and economically dependent” on LVRJ.

Terminating the JOA would effectively kill the Sun, “complet[ing] Adelson’s plan to achieve 100 percent monopoly power of local daily newspapers in Las Vegas and stifle all dissenting views,” the suit alleges.

Anonymous Acquisition

Adelson purchased LVRJ anonymously in 2015, leading the newspaper’s own reporters to uncover the identity of their new boss through old-fashioned investigative journalism. LVRJ broke the story that Adelson had bought the paper before any official announcement from the billionaire’s camp.

All three reporters who had worked on that story — including gaming industry reporter Howard Stutz — left the newspaper shortly afterwards, and others quickly followed them out of the door, amid allegations that stories pertaining to Adelson and his operations were being heavily edited or killed by the new management.

Longtime columnist John L. Smith, who was once sued by Adelson for defamation, said he was told he would be fired if he covered anything to do with the LVS boss.

Campaign of Oppression

The Sun lawsuit does not mice its words.

“Defendant Sheldon Adelson has been a long-time enemy of the First Amendment and the press,” it alleges. “For decades, he has filed and prosecuted one frivolous and ultimately unsuccessful defamation case after another. His object has always been clear: chill free speech and silence those that would speak out against him.”

Against this campaign of oppression, courageous journalists have nonetheless doggedly investigated Adelson’s suspicious business dealings, lawsuits, and political activities while shining a disinfecting sunlight on his actions,” said the Sun’s lawyers.

But Benjamin Lipman, LVRJ’s vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, told Bloomberg Law the lawsuit appeared to be retaliation for the breach of contract claim.

“We believe the allegations are baseless and do not have merit,” he added. “We intend to fight the case and we’re confident we will succeed…”

In March, a lawyer for LVS revealed that Adelson was seriously ill and had been undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.