Sheldon Adelson is The Rupert Murdoch of Israel

When casino multi billionaire Sheldon Adelson decided to “dabble” in American presidential politics, by depositing $10 million into a Newt Gingrich SuperPac, it seemed, at least for the week that followed the South Carolina Primary, as if Adelson’s money was going to have a profound effect on the 2012 election. It still might. If Mitt Romney fails to beat Barack Obama in November, a strong argument can be made that the seeds of his defeat were sewn with Adelson’s money in South Carolina. If Romney actually manages to lose the nomination, there will be nothing to argue about. Adelson, with a little help from Newt, (to quote Eliza Doolittle) will have done him in.

Even if Mitt Romney succeeds in becoming President Romney, with a modest investment, at least by Adelson’s standards, the Las Vegas mogul has already bought himself a legacy, being a big time game changer in the business of presidential politics. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, made it easy and legal for Adelson and his successors to spend vast sums on their new hobby, influencing American voters. You can bet your next $billion that while Adelson’s $10 million contribution seems ground breaking today, it won’t be long before somebody else with a bank account almost as big, and an even larger ego, will have us all gasping over his or her $100 million, or who knows?, a $billion contribution, on behalf of a candidate to be named later.

Huffington Post calculated that based on his net worth increase in 2011, of $7 billion; figuring that he works a 40 hour week (Granted, they haven’t seen his timesheet.), Adelson made $3.3 million an hour! So the $10 million he spent on Newt didn’t represent that much of a sacrifice for him.

Adelson has also lost $35-70 million on his “investment” into what is now Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today). Using Huffington’s accounting method, this would have required Adelson to sweat and slave for as many as two whole days, in order to recoup his full outlay for this venture.

Notwithstanding his “losses” on HaYom, there’s no need to have rachmones for Adelson. In Israel, he got exactly what he wanted, the job of Prime Minister for his good friend, Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Global Post

It was in order to help a future Netanyahu candidacy that Adelson, in 2007, established Israel Hayom(Israel Today) a daily tabloid newspaper that quickly rose to have the widest circulation in the country. The newspaper was founded on the conviction, widespread among the Israeli right-wing since Netanyahu’s first term in office in the mid-90s, that the media held a deep-seated antipathy to Netanyahu.
A much-repeated rumor, impossible to verify, has it that Adelson has told Israeli friends he is happy to lose even $150 or $200 million dollars on the venture.
Conservative estimates hold that for now, he has lost at least several tens of millions of dollars. The paper boasts an extensive and expensive list of journalists and analysts, it is printed in massive quantities and distributed widely and for free, yet it does not display advertising in sufficient quantities to offset significant costs. It is a rich man’s luxury.
Israelis uncomfortable with the paper’s big shadow have bestowed it with a jokey moniker, Bibiton, a play on Netanyahu’s nickname, Bibi, and on the Hebrew word for newspaper, Iton.

In 2007, The Jewish Daily Forward wrote this about Adelson’s HaYom

Two weeks ago, Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., launched Yisrael Hayom, or Israel Today, a free daily newspaper that on its first day was already one of the largest-circulation papers in the country. Adelson’s new paper is drawing questions from other journalists, who worry about the mogul’s connections to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and also from the owners of other Israeli newspapers, who are a famously tight-knit club . . .
“Adelson is coming with an agenda,” said one leading Israeli journalist who did not want to be identified, as he is from a competing media company. “He comes with a right-wing political agenda with the interest of making [someone] a prime minister — and that’s Bibi.”

In February of 2009, Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 27 of 120 seats in the Knessest. Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadimah Party won 28 seats. However, Netanyahu was able to form a coalition by aligning with several smaller parties, most notably, Yisrael Beiteinu, which is led by the controversial Avingnor Leiborman; and The Labor Party, which at the time was led by former prime minister, Ehud Barak.

Even Netanyahu acknowledges that he was the beneficiary of HaYom’s unwavering support during the 2009 election. Perhaps without HaYom’s support, Kadimah might have won a few more seats, and Livni might have been able to form a government rather than Netanyahu. We’ll leave that sort of speculation to others. We know for a fact that Adelson’s backing surely didn’t hurt Netanyahu.

In December of 2009, Adelson’s competitors tried to legislate him out of business.
Neal Ungerleider wrote in the defunct (partially broken link, still worth looking at)

A popular free daily newspaper handed out in train stations and on the streets may be banned by the Israeli government. Israel HaYom (Israel Today), which has the second largest daily circulation of any Israeli paper, is the subject of a Knesset bill that would essentially ban publication. Israel HaYomis owned by Sheldon Adelson, an American casino magnate.
The problem? A bill working its way through the Knesset would ban foreigners from owning a newspaper in Israel. The bill is sponsored by parliamentarians Daniel Ben Simon (Labor) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima), along with Ofer Nimrodi. The only problem? Nimrodi is the publisher of Maariv, the top-circulating paper in the country and Israel HaYom’s main competitor. The loose legal system in Israel does not currently prohibit foreigners from owning newspapers. The bill that would ban Israel HaYom was drafted by Nimrodi’s lawyer and Israeli television reports that he has been trying to recruit parliamentarians to the cause for months.

In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer defended Adelson. He wrote

There is only one reason for this pathetic piece of legislation: Sheldon Adelson’s two-and-a-half-year-old newspaper, Israel Hayom, is threatening the very existence of one of Israel’s national tabloids and the predominance of the other. That’s why Maariv publisher and part owner Ofer Nimrodi has recently been seen in the Knesset cozying up to backbenchers. It is also why – after 62 years of bitter enmity, ever since Yedioth Ahronoth’s editor and all its journalists walked out of the newsroom to set up Maariv – the proprietors of both dailies are now making common cause and lobbying MKs against the common enemy.

Pfeffer failed to mention that HaYom doesn’t have its own printing equipment and that it outsources the very lucrative job to Pfeffer’s paper, Haararetz.

This week however, Haaretz seemed to be biting the hand that feeds it (and a some journalistic integrity), with their coverage of an earlier report by Israeli TV Channel 10
Haaretz wrote

A senior columnist for the Yisrael Hayom newspaper is on the payroll of the Prime Minister’s Office, with which he has a contract to “write speeches and lectures,” for NIS 50,000 a year, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.
Dror Eydar has written about everything related to the assault on various media outlets in Israel, and frequently pens columns accusing the media of being hostile to Netanyahu. Yisrael Hayom, owned by American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is considered to have a right-wing, pro-Netanyahu slant. Adelson has contributed considerable sums of money to Netanyahu’s election campaigns.

Here’s how the Ultra Liberal Tikkun Olam described HaYom

There is no comparable phenomenon in U.S. journalism. It would be as if Gannett had a billionaire owner for whom money was no object in advancing the specific political career of one far-right American politician. Imagine USA Today as a free paper totally funded by ads and the owner’s largess. Imagine too, that virtually the entire newspaper is given over to promotion of the views of Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, along with other hot tabloidy subjects. Then you’d approach the impact that Yisrael Hayom is having on Israeli politics and journalism.

In 2009 Adelson was interviewed by Jacob Berkman of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency In that interview Berkman asked him about his political involvement in Israel. Adelson replied

What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel HaYom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.”

Later in the same interview, when asked about why he started Hayom, Adelson answered

I wanted to give an unbiased, untainted, fair and balanced view of what is happening.

Comments are closed.