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Adelson son-in-law orchestrated family’s purchase of Las Vegas Review-Journal

The son-in-law of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson arranged the $140 million purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Adelson’s behalf, sources confirmed Wednesday.

Patrick Dumont, who is listed on the website of Las Vegas Sands Corp. as the company’s senior vice president of finance and strategy, put together the deal at the behest of his father-in-law, the chairman and CEO of the casino operator.

Dumont, a 41-year-old from New York, in 2009 married Sivan Ochshorn, a daughter of Adelson’s wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, from a prior marriage. Sivan Ochshorn Dumont runs the Israel Hayom, which is owned by the casino mogul.

“He (Dumont) handles all the investments for the family,” said a source close to the Adelsons who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the family.

Another source familiar with the deal said Sheldon Adelson, 15th on the Forbes 400 List of Billionaires with a net worth of $24.5 billion, funded the transaction. Dumont helped create News + Media Capital Group LLC, which acquired the Review-Journal and several smaller Nevada newspapers last week from New Media Investment Corp.

A source said Dumont also led Adelson’s previous attempt to acquire the Review-Journal from former owner Stephens Media LLC before the February sale to New Media Investment. He could not be reached for comment. Sivan Ochshorn Dumont, reached at the couple’s Las Vegas home, hung up before answering a reporter’s questions Wednesday.

Adelson, meanwhile, broke several days of silence on the newspaper purchase late Tuesday night, telling CNN media reporter Brian Stelter only that he has “no personal interest” in the RJ’s new owner.

Fortune magazine on Wednesday cited “multiple sources familiar with the situation” in reporting Adelson was the newspaper’s “primary buyer.”

Michael Reed, CEO of New Media Investment Corp., did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

Transparency lacking

Pressure continues to mount on the paper’s new owners.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus took to the House floor Wednesday to join a growing chorus of reporters, readers and media watchdogs calling on the News + Media backers to reveal themselves.

That includes the Society of Professional Journalists — a 7,500-member advocacy group that promotes First Amendment and media ethics causes — and the American Society of News Editors, which issued a statement Wednesday urging the new owners to “stop hiding and reveal themselves.”

In an interview off the floor, Titus said that she decided to speak on the House floor after hearing from constituents in Las Vegas over the weekend and seeing employees of the Review-Journal raise their own questions.

“A lot of people are being very brave working for the RJ and calling for this. And, this is a bigger issue because it applies to the press anywhere. So, I decided I’m going to speak on the floor,” she said.

The Review-Journal was purchased last week by News + Media Capital Group LLC — a newly formed, Delaware-domiciled company backed by “undisclosed financial backers with expertise in the media industry.”

News + Media manager Michael Schroeder has declined to disclose the company’s investors, as has Review-Journal Publisher Jason Taylor.

News + Media paid $140 million for the newspaper and its sister publications, around $38 million more than New Media Investment Group paid in March for all of Stephens Media LLC, a national chain of eight daily newspapers that included the Review-Journal. As a Delaware limited liability corporation, News + Media is not required to list its owners in any public document.

The inflated purchase price has fueled speculation and denials surrounding the newspaper’s new owners, much of which has centered on Adelson, a Republican Party mega-donor, pledging $100 million in donations to GOP candidates in the 2012 election cycle. He is also actively involved in Israeli politics.

The Review-Journal reported Tuesday that Adelson, working through intermediaries, made a bid for the newspaper earlier this year, when GateHouse Media bought it along with most other assets of Stephens Media LLC.

Family ties

Adelson was born in 1933 and has often described a childhood lived in abject poverty in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. As a teenager he began his business career operating downtown Boston newsstand and later investing in candy machines, becoming an SEC-registered investment adviser, working in real estate and becoming a venture capitalist and owner of a travel agency.

Adelson’s association with Las Vegas began when he started the immensely successful Comdex computer and technology trade show in 1979 and launched his convention-center empire with his 1989 purchase of the Sands hotel and redevelopment of the site into the Sands Expo and Convention Center. He built the 4,049-room Venetian in 1999 and the adjacent 3,068-room Palazzo in 2007. Properties in Macau in 2004 and Singapore in 2006 followed.

At 82, the Summerlin resident has built a net worth of $24.5 billion, according to Forbes, and a business empire that touches diverse industries including hospitality, media and even medicine. He involves his wife of 24 years and their blended family in his enterprises and causes.

His wife, Israel-born medical doctor Miriam Ochshorn Adelson, 70, helps run the Adelson Family Foundation, which says it supports causes such as Holocaust and anti-Semitism awareness; advocacy and defense of Israel; Jewish and Zionist identity and education; and Israel studies on college campuses.

Miriam Adelson is also, like her husband, a Republican campaign mega-donor. She made her first major debut on the campaign-finance stage in early 2012, when she matched her husband’s largesse with a $5 million primary campaign contribution to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

“Sheldon and I share the same vision and beliefs, although we come from two different backgrounds,” she told Fortune magazine at the time. “We are in full agreement on the causes we support, whether they are helpless people, drug addicts or young people looking for roots in Israel. We don’t have arguments, or long discussions; it’s quite a fast discussion bearing in mind our common values.”

Fortune added that it “seems clear” that Miriam Adelson “helped bring her husband to the Israeli cause.”

The Adelsons met on a blind date in 1988, according to a 2014 profile in Hadassah magazine. Sheldon Adelson proposed within 100 days, the story said, and the couple married in 1991.

The union conjoined a large family that is also active in the couple’s business interests and political causes.

Adelson’s daughter, Shelley Faye Adelson, married Richard Heller, a businessman who landed a job as president of Sands Expo & Convention Center. The daughter and son-in-law divorced, but Heller stayed with the convention center for more than 15 years, from at least 1989 until the mid-2000s. It’s unclear where Heller works now.

The children have donated heavily to political candidates their parents support.

Miriam’s California-based daughter, Yasmin Lukatz, 43, and her husband, fine-arts photographer Oren Lukatz, 47, gave $250,000 each to Gingrich’s 2012 campaign, according to a Washington Post report.

Miriam’s second daughter, Sivan Dumont — Patrick Dumont’s wife since 2009 — contributed $500,000 to Gingrich.

Most notably, Sivan Dumont, 40, oversees operations of the Adelson-owned Israel Hayom, a free daily newspaper in Israel launched in 2007. Fortune magazine described Israel Hayom as “stridently” supportive of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose center-right Likud party favors Israeli settlements in disputed territories and rejects the notion of a Palestinian state.

Israel Hayom notes on its website that it sets “clear and precise standards” for media coverage, including rigid fact-checking, a public editor who serves as an ombudsman with readers and their concerns, and openness to reader criticism. The paper’s online statement said it also “will not give a hand to ‘spin.'”

Other interests that have drawn multiple family members include Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust memorial to which Miriam and Sheldon Adelson donated $25 million in 2006; the Adelson Educational Campus in Summerlin, a K-12 school of which Sivan Dumont is a trustee; the pro-Israel Zionist Association of America; and Taglit-Birthright Israel, a nonprofit that sponsors free “heritage trips” to Israel for Jewish young adults. The Adelson family had contributed more than $250 million to the group as of February, according to the Algemeiner, a New York newspaper that covers Jewish and Israeli news.

Adelson also has two sons from his first marriage. One son, Mitchell, died of a drug overdose in 2005; son Gary is not involved with the family, according to multiple media reports.

Legal wrangling

Adelson is widely known as both a tough and litigious businessman who often faces off against both business associates and journalists in court, using his vast fortune to fuel protracted legal battles.

He sued the London’s Daily Mail for defamation, with the case settled in 2008. In 2013, he filed a defamation lawsuit against a Wall Street Journal reporter looking into his Macau casino operations.

And Adelson has twice filed lawsuits over comments about him that appeared in Las Vegas-based publications. Both of those lawsuits were eventually dismissed, but not before one action bankrupted RJ columnist John L. Smith, who had written about him in a book about casino moguls.

Adelson is also battling two long-pending lawsuits filed by former business associates. A wrongful termination case brought by Steven Jacobs, the former CEO of the company’s Sands China subsidiary, is scheduled to go to trial in June in Clark County District Court.

The case, filed in 2010, centers on claims that he was fired for “blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”

In June, the British newspaper The Guardian and nonprofit watchdog group Campaign for Accountability asked Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to unseal records in the case that could reveal business ties between Las Vegas Sands and high-ranking members of Chinese organized-crime groups called triads.

The Campaign for Accountability said it wanted to know if Adelson “has used money acquired through criminal activity in Macau casinos to make campaign contributions to candidates for public office.”

Adelson has responded that he had “at least 34 good reasons” to fire Jacobs and has forced at least two political groups that have tried to use Jacobs’ allegations against him to retract statements and apologize.

Meanwhile, in January the Nevada Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the $101.5 million verdict in the second Richard Suen trial.

Suen, a Hong Kong businessman, sued Adelson and the company nearly a decade ago, claiming he helped the casino operator secure a Macau gaming license in the early 2000s. However, Suen claimed the company refused to pay him for his services.

In 2008, a Clark County District Court jury awarded Suen $43.8 million plus interest and fees, which grew the judgement to $58 million. The Nevada Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 2010 because of the amount of hearsay evidence Suen’s attorneys put into the record.

A second trial in 2013 resulted in a second win for Suen, with the jury awarding $70 million, plus another $31.6 million in interest. Since 2013, the verdict has been growing by $8,400 a day until the judgment is paid or overturned on appeal.

Review-Journal Washington Bureau writer Peter Urban contributed to this report.

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven

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