The mystery of who purchased Nevada’s largest newspaper last week has become so engrossing that even presidential candidates are weighing in.
Following an hour-long meeting Monday with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) asked the question ricocheting around social media: who now owns the newspaper?
Just finished hour+ @reviewjournal ed board. Only q left unanswered – who owns the newspaper?
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 14, 2015
The newspaper was sold Thursday in a staggering $140 million deal to News + Media Capital Group LLC, a Delaware-based company that the Review-Journal reported is backed by “undisclosed financial backers with expertise in the media industry.” Coming in the middle of the 2016 presidential race, the sale, which remained shrouded in secrecy days after it was announced, prompted journalists to speculate that the newspaper was purchased for political influence. Nevada holds early caucuses and is historically a swing state and bellwether for the rest of the U.S.
The newspaper’s own staff, which was left in the dark about the sale, lashed out on social media and called for their new owners to reveal themselves. CNN reported Monday that some two dozen reporters and editors simultaneously tweeted links to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which requires journalists to be “accountable and transparent.”
Though the new owners have told staffers that they won’t interfere with editorial content, Review-Journal reporter James DeHaven raised suspicions when he asked “how reporters can possibly disclose conflicts of interest with the company that signs their paychecks.”
As The Los Angeles Times reported, News + Media Capital Group “paid seven times the paper’s earnings over the last 12 months.” The remarkable price of the sale, at a time when print media is hemorrhaging money, sparked wild speculation about which deep-pocketed national figure could be behind the purchase.
The billionaire Koch brothers told Fortune that they were not involved. The Times floated Sheldon Adelson, the Nevada casino magnate and conservative megadonor, as one possibility. Less serious contenders included Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical company owner who stoked public outrage by wildly inflating the price of a drug used to fight HIV.
As for Jeb Bush, he reportedly joked that the newspaper was purchased by none other than his Republican presidential rival Donald Trump.