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Billionaire Adelson Hit With Antitrust Suit by Las Vegas Sun

Sept. 25, 2019, 12:10 AM

The Las Vegas Sun is accusing billionaire Sheldon Adelson of committing a “modern-day smashing of the printing presses” through his purchase of rival newspaper The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Sheldon, 86, is the owner and chairman of the Las Vegas Sands, the world’s largest casino operator. The Sun’s strongly worded Sept. 24 antitrust complaint accuses Sheldon of purchasing the Review-Journal to begin “a systematic silencing of all his local media critics.”

The Review-Journal recently filed a lawsuit against the Sun in a Nevada state court in what the Sun says is a “baseless and unlawful” claim to end a joint operating agreement between the two newspapers. The JOA is the result of a federal law that “provides a limited antitrust exemption for newspapers to combine production, marketing, distribution, and sales, so long as their editorial and reportorial functions are maintained separate and independent,” the complaint said.

The move by the Review-Journal to end the JOA violates federal antitrust law, the complaint filed Sept. 24 by the Sun in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada said.

“We believe the allegations are baseless and do not have merit,” Benjamin Lipman, the Review-Journal’s vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, told Bloomberg Law. “We intend to fight the case and we’re confident we will succeed in this case as well as in the lawsuit” in Nevada state court, he said.

Ending the JOA “would effectively kill the Sun” and give Adelson “100% monopoly power of local daily newspapers in Las Vegas,” the complaint said.

“This lawsuit appears to be in retaliation for our efforts to sue the Las Vegas Sun for breaching the contract between the parties,” Lipman said.

Causes of Action: Sherman Act §2—Monopolization, attempted monopolization, conspiracy to monopolize (15 U.S.C. §2); Clayton Act §7 (15 U.S.C. §18); Nevada Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Relief: Injunction preventing defendants from terminating the JOA; injunction preventing defendants from acquiring the Sun; preliminary and permanent injunction requiring the Review-Journal to “divest itself of the newspaper, or in the alternative to divest itself of the newspaper’s non-editorial business operations and to require the creation of an independent agency (or trustee) to conduct the non-editorial business of the joint operation"; treble damages; attorneys’ fees; court costs.

Response: An attempt to contact Adelson wasn’t immediately successful Sept. 24.

Attorneys: Pisanelli Bice PLLC, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP, and San Francisco-based Joseph M. Alioto represent the Sun.

The case is Las Vegas Sun Inc. v. Adelson, D. Nev., No. 19-cv-01667, complaint filed 9/24/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Bennett in Washington at jbennett@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com