For Sale?

Would Pro-Israel Billionaires Adelson and Saban Really Buy the NYT?

No, the New York Times isn’t for sale to these guys, but both men long to influence the dialogue over Israel in this country.


Imagine a world where The New York Times stopped writing in favor of the two state solution and urged the president at every chance to bomb Iran already. As Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, once said, "If you will it, it is no dream."

Speaking at a conference of the Israel American Council on Sunday, Sheldon Adelson said he knew how to buy America’s flagship newspaper.

“There’s only one way to buy it,” Adelson said. “Money.”

Expanding on this theme, he added, “You pay significantly more than it’s worth, then the non-family shareholders have the right to bring a suit between the real value and what’s been offered.”

Adelson made these remarks as part of a public conversation with Israeli-American Haim Saban, another billionaire who has flooded American politics in recent years with generous donations to pro-Israeli politicians and organizations. Both were speaking Sunday at an event sponsored by the Council, an organization that just received a new grant to expand its operations from Adelson.

Both Saban and Adelson are two of the largest single donors to the Democratic and Republican parties respectively. Saban in 2002 gave $7 million to the Democratic National Committee’s building fund making him at the time the largest single donor to the party. In 2012, Adelson announced he would be giving $100 million to Republican candidates to defeat President Barack Obama. But the two men on Sunday made clear that when it comes to Israel they were largely on the same side.

Saban, for example, said he hoped a new proposal from Sen. Lindsey Graham to put any Iran deal to an up or down vote in the Senate passes.

“If the government of Israel comes to the conclusion that the deal signed puts Israel’s security at risk, I would bomb the living daylights out of these sons of bitches,” Saban said. Adelson was less explicit, saying, “I would not just talk, I would take action.”

While both billionaires have sought to purchase big media companies, there’s no evidence this was a serious proposal or anything more than banter for the pro-Israel crowd. Many core supporters of Israel have long lamented the Times’ influence over the how Israel and Palestine are perceived in the United States, saying the Times is biased against Israel.

Adelson does owns one of the Jewish state’s largest newspapers, Israel Hayom, however. And Saban has tried but failed to purchase major American news outlets in the past.

On Sunday, Saban said he often writes letters to the editors of his hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times. “I meet with the editors, I write them letters, I threaten them,” he said.

Saban also lamented the fact that founder Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post. “It would have been nice for you and I to buy the Washington Post,” Saban told Adelson. He called the $250 million that Bezos paid, “bupkis.”

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Adelson responded that he then wished he knew it was for sale. “Why don’t you and I go after The New York Times?” he asked Saban.

“Maybe you and I can,” Saban replied. “But I have tried and I have failed.”