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Newspaper Editor Steps Down After Publication's Billionaire Buyer Unmasked

Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Review-Journal was purchased under mysterious circumstances. When the buyer's name wasn't revealed, the paper's reporters did some digging and revealed that the Adelson family was behind the deal.

The next day, the family of conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson publicly confirmed the purchase. The Review-Journal's reporters went on to disclose that before the purchase was announced, the paper's publisher had given some of the staff an odd assignment that appeared to advance the Adelsons' interests.

Now the paper's editor, who oversaw that reporting, is leaving.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports that Mike Hengel has accepted what the paper is calling a "voluntary buyout that was offered by the prior owners of the paper."

David wrote on Twitter that while Hengel said the new management is entitled to hire an editor of its choosing, it is "hard not to conclude [Hengel is] gone for fulfilling paper's fundamental charge: keeping the community informed no matter how fraught."

Hengel's departure, announced Tuesday evening, was unexpected, David says. On social media, some of the newspaper's staff have said they are stunned to see Hengel go.

According to one of the paper's reporters, Hengel told his staff, "I think my resignation probably comes a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family."

The paper's new owners wrote in Wednesday's paper that they "pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate," with investments in "enhanced fact checking" and the possibility of hiring an ombudsman.

Sheldon Adelson heads a casino empire; the gambling industry is a major player in Nevada's economy. Adelson is also prominently involved in national politics.

The Adelson family's statement doesn't explicitly address any potential business or political conflicts of interest, David notes.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.