Judge: RJ Owns Rival Sun $2 Million

Sun Claims RJ Hasn't Paid Them Revenue To Knock Them Out Of Business

Associated Press
February 20, 2020 - 7:36 am
Exterior of the offices of the Las Vegas Review Journal

Ethan MIller/Getty Images

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owes $1.9 million and counting in a profits-and-costs dispute with its crosstown rival Las Vegas Sun under one of the few remaining newspaper joint-operating agreements in the U.S., a state court judge said.

Benjamin Lipman, attorney for the Review-Journal, owned by the family of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, on Wednesday characterized Clark County District Judge Timothy Williams’ order as a “technical formality” in the breach-of-contract case.

Lipman noted that both sides already appealed to the state Supreme Court in January, after Williams upheld an arbitrator’s finding that the Review-Journal must submit to an audit and pay profits and expenses the Sun claims have been improperly deducted in recent years.

The two sides also have a federal antitrust and unfair trade lawsuit pending. It was filed last September by the Sun against Adelson and Review-Journal ownership entity News+Media Capital Group LLC.

Williams in December did not specify the dollar amount at stake or affirm everything the Sun sought based on findings by an out-of-court arbitrator. But the judge found the Review-Journal had “done just about everything possible to blunt, avoid, deter and postpone an audit.”

On Tuesday, the judge also upheld the arbitrator’s award of an additional $40,000 in court costs and fees to the Sun. The judge said interest on the $1.9 million would accrue at a little more than $250 per day, effective Jan. 28.

The sides have battled in courts for years, but the Sun alleges the fight became more bitter after the Adelson family purchased the Review-Journal in December 2015.

Adelson is the multi-billionaire chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and a top Republican donor. His casino company owns the Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and lucrative casinos in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

The Sun accuses the Review-Journal of withholding agreed-upon revenues in a bid to starve the Sun out of existence.

The joint-operating agreement, entered in 1989, was amended in 2005 to require each newspaper to bear its own editorial costs and the Review-Journal to share profits with the Sun. The pact expires in 2040.

The Sun, formerly an afternoon daily, is printed and delivered as one section within the morning Review-Journal, which owns the printing presses. The Sun characterizes itself as “a left-leaning editorial voice” and maintains a robust internet presence.

The Review-Journal was one of the few U.S. newspapers to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016. It published a front-page editorial last August titled, “Why we want to stop printing the Sun.” It called the joint-operating contract a “relic,” derided Sun news offerings and accused the Sun of failing to meet a contractual obligation to produce “a high-quality metropolitan print newspaper.”

Lipman has denied the Review-Journal wants to shut down the Sun, but says the Sun should be self-sufficient.

Las Vegas is one of a handful of U.S. cities with newspapers still operating under a joint-operating contracts, according to the News Media Alliance trade group. Others include York, Pennsylvania; Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Detroit. A joint-operating agreement between the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News could expire this year.