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Secret Vegas Deal: Adelson’s Bet on Journalism

Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Photo by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

By Casey Bukro

The stealth purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson had journalists guessing for a week about the identity of the new owner and had some fuming over a lack of transparency, a prime tenet in media ethics these days.

But why should we be surprised by all this?

Very rich men often play by their own rules and get away with it. Even in media, top executives sometimes believe they are exempt from the ethics standards they hand down to their employees.

Journalists are warned against forming close personal ties with the sources they cover in case of conflicts of interest or an appearance of conflict. Publishers, however, party and play golf with the high and mighty covered by their staffs and call that good business.

They see themselves as business men and women, not journalists. In this case, we’re talking about a businessman in the Las Vegas casino business, where razzle-dazzle is the way the game is played. The house always wins.

Politics makes it more complicated. Adelson reportedly declined mentioning his purchase of the largest Nevada newspaper, even denying it as first, because he did not want it to distract from the fifth GOP presidential debate being held at the time in the Venetian resort hotel casino owned and operated by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., of which Adelson is chairman and CEO.

Clearly, politics took priority. And that might offer a clue into some of the leading questions in Las Vegas these days, such as what does Adelson want, and what does he intend to do with the newspaper?

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