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Adelson, Rival Spar Over Virus-Related Pause in Newspaper Case

April 6, 2020, 2:48 PM

The Las Vegas Sun says the Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t justify pausing its federal antitrust lawsuit against a crosstown rival owned by billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the GOP megadonor, who’s arguing that his earlier bid to halt discovery is now even more urgent.

The lawsuit, which calls Adelson “a long-time enemy of the First Amendment and the press,” also targets his paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It was filed in September in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

The suit accuses Adelson and the Review-Journal of “weaponizing” a decades-old joint operating agreement that let the two papers “combine production, marketing, distribution, and sales” while maintaining editorial independence. Adelson, “tired of publishing his only rival,” eventually realized he couldn’t “suffocate” it merely by meddling, the Sun claims.

But terminating the agreement “would effectively kill the Sun,” which has structured operations around it, the suit says.

Firing back at those claims in October, Adelson mocked the suit as “epic in its hypocrisy.” The Sun’s request for an order forcing Adelson to divest his Review-Journal ownership would “dictate” control of a newspaper, according to the dismissal motion, which added: “So much for free speech.”

Adelson then asked Magistrate Judge Brenda Weksler in December to halt discovery pending resolution of the dismissal motion. The Sun opposed the request.

Weksler ordered the parties March 27 to submit a joint report summarizing their current positions, “given the number of stipulations to continue discovery the court has received because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The “significant limitations to courthouse operations” and massive disruptions caused by the coronavirus have made it even more important to delay what can be delayed, Adelson and his paper argue in the April 3 joint filing.

“Since the parties appeared in court two months ago, the world has dramatically changed,” they say. “The Sun’s refusal to agree to any temporary stay during this expanding pandemic is selfish, unreasonable, and unjustified.”

The Sun, meanwhile, says Adelson and the Review-Journal are simply trying to drag the case out long enough to win by default, when their sole local competitor finally buckles.

The Review-Journal’s continuing “predatory” practices, “coupled with the inevitable delays and procedural gamesmanship” it’s using “to stall resolving the Sun’s claims,” will “impose catastrophic economic hardship,” the filing says.

Adelson and his paper are represented by Jenner & Block LLP. The Sun is represented by Alioto Law Firm and Pisanelli Bice PLLC.

The case is Las Vegas Sun, Inc. v. Adelson, D. Nev., No. 19-cv-1667, joint status report filed 4/3/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Leonard in Washington at mleonard@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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