December 17, 2015 Last Updated 11:44 am

Mystery solved as new owner of Vegas daily comes out; Brazil judge shuts down What’s App

Morning Brief: Sheldon Adelson denies ‘financial interest’ in Las Vegas Review-Journal Tuesday, then admits to ownership late on Wednesday, in wackiest M&A transaction of the year

The mystery has been solved: billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson does, indeed, now own the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The deal was put together by Adelson’s son-in-law at his behest, keeping him out of the limelight, even if only for a few days.

LVRJ-front-121715Dan Primack of Fortune was the first yesterday to positively identify Adelson as the buyer, though most media observers pegged him as one of the usual suspects. Who would buy a newspaper in an important primary state and not brag about it? It had to be either the Koch Brothers or Adelson, right? The Koch Brothers soon said “not us” and that left only one candidate.

After Fortune’s report, which was based on anonymous sources, things got a little interesting. CNN’s Brian Stelter, for instance, was sitting on an interview he had just conducted with Adelson while at the GOP debate on Tuesday. Adelson told Stelter that “I have no personal interest” in the newspaper, a statement that was vague enough to give Adelson some wiggle room should it come out that he did buy the paper, but through some financial mechanism that made his statement technically true, if not dishonest.

“Everyone thinks it’s either me or Steve Wynn,” Adelson told Stelter. Is it? asked Stelter. “It could be,” Adelson said.

But with the cat out of the bag the story has changed.

“We understand the desire of the hard-working staff at the R-J and others in the community to know the identity of the paper’s new owners, and it was always our intention to publicly announce our ownership,” the family said today in a statement.

Adelson’s shell company, News + Media Capital Group LLC, paid well over the market value for the Review-Journal, $140 million. The paper had been bought earlier in the year by New Media Investment Group for $104 million. Few observers doubt that the new owner bought the paper because they thought they were getting a good deal, but because of the perceived power it might give the new owner.

The crosstown rival is the weaker Las Vegas Sun. The publisher and president of the Sun is Brian Greenspan, a college roommate of President Bill Clinton, and a someone who is likely to endorse Hillary Clinton. The Sun is printed by the Review-Journal and is included as a section inside the pages of the Review-Journal. This may explain why the paper has not written about Adelson’s purchase other than to link to the CNN story on its website.

A judge in Brazil yesterday shutdown the messaging app What’s App, ordering it blocked for 48 hours.

Whatsapp-icon-150Brazil’s telecommunications companies have been lobbying to have the app shutdown arguing that it is unregulated.

“This is a sad day for Brazil,” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his own Facebook page. “Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open internet. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online.”

“I am stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.”

At issue here is an attempt by the conservative government in Brazil to reverse the net neutrality laws put in place by the previous government.

For more on this issue I would refer you to the article posted yesterday by TechCrunch.

Update: The black out last less than a day when a higher court in São Paulo overturned the ruling shutting down the service.

VF-subsCondé Nast has just updated their digital edition apps inside the Apple App Store. But this update doesn’t mention bug fixes or the addition of new features. Instead, the updates have been issued as part of a sales promotion.

Exclusive Offer: Enjoy your favorite magazines at 50% off now! Limited time only.

That sounds like a great idea. But what is strange is that once inside the apps one doesn’t see any promotion. Instead, the apps offer the same $1.99 per month subscription offer, but the annual subscription says “null”. Pressing this option leads nowhere. In fact, the app freezes up as it attempts to contact Condé Nast’s fulfillment unit.

It is possible that these updates were issued unexpectedly and Condé Nast’s circulation team was not ready for them. No matter, the apps are now broken. Too bad, it was a good idea. It was the execution, though, that let the effort down.

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