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Sheldon Adelson gains influence through newspaper in Israel

By A. James Memmott

August 2, 2010 at 6:38am

Billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson’s venture into journalism would seem to be working, at least in drawing readers.

Adelson, the chairman, CEO and principal stockholder of the Las Vegas Sands and a prolific giver to conservative and Jewish causes, started the free newspaper Israel Hayom (Israel Today) in June 2007.

According to The Independent of London, the tabloid now has a slight lead over all other Israeli-based newspapers, as it is read by 35 percent of all Israelis. Yedioth Aharonot, its chief competitor and not a free newspaper, is 0.3 percentage points behind.

The critics of Israel Hayom charge that, given the deep pockets of its owner, the paper has an unfair advantage over other media.

In addition, according to the Independent, the critics contend that the main purpose of Israel Hayom is to support the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.

Adelson, a long-time opponent of a separate Palestinian state beside Israel, has denied this charge.

“Everybody thinks I started the newspaper purely to benefit Bibi [Netanyahu]. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Adelson told the Jewish Telegraph Agency, as quoted in the Independent. “I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views.”

Adelson was a strong supporter in the U.S. of President George W. Bush and other Republican candidates. In addition, he helped bankroll Freedom’s Watch, a group that supported the surge in Iraq under Bush.

He reportedly started Israel Hayom with a $180-million investment.

Adelson’s personal wealth has fluctuated some with the economy. In 2008, he ranked No. 12 on the Forbes list of billionaires worldwide with an estimated wealth of $26 million.

In 2009, due to a precipitous drop in the Sands stock price, he had fallen to No. 178 with an estimated wealth of $3.4 billion.

This year’s ranking shows Adelson climbing back up the wealth ladder. Forbes now shows him at No. 73 with an estimated net worth of $9.3 billion.

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