15 Billionaires Own America’s News Media Companies and Bought major Financial Interests in International News Outlets
Robert Gorter, et al.
September 7th, 2022
News that billionaire Peter Thiel was funding Hulk Hogan’s trial against news website Gawker set the media and technology worlds on fire; sparking a conversation about the ultra-wealthy’s role in controlling the news. While a billionaire secretly funding a lawsuit to take down a news outlet may be a new way of using money to influence the media business, billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.
Some billionaires, like Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg, are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business. Others, like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications, and cable television networks.
Michael Rubens Bloomberg (*1942) is an American businessman, politician, philanthropist, and author. He is the majority owner, co-founder, and CEO of Bloomberg L.P. He was Mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013 and was a candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
Keith Rupert Murdoch (*1931) is an Australian-born American businessman, media tycoon, and investor. Through his company News Corp, he is the owner of hundreds of local, national, and international publishing outlets around the world, including in the UK (The Sun and The Times), in Australia (The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, and The Australian), in the US (The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post), book publisher HarperCollins, and the television broadcasting channels Sky News Australia and Fox News (through the Fox Corporation). He was also the owner of Sky (until 2018), 21st Century Fox (until 2019), and the now-defunct News of the World. With a net worth of US$21.7 billion as of 2 March 2022, Murdoch is the 31st richest person in the United States and the 71st richest in the world.
In July 2020, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is considered the richest person in the world. His wealth is now estimated to be $175bn, having made tens of billions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos even has plans to take the human race into space.
Jeffrey Preston Bezos (*1964) is an American entrepreneur, media proprietor, investor, computer engineer, and commercial astronaut. He is the founder, executive chairman, and former president and CEO of Amazon. With a net worth of around US$140 billion as of May 2022, Bezos is the second-wealthiest person in the world and was the wealthiest from 2017 to 2021 according to both Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index and Forbes.
Several other billionaires, including Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, own or control cable TV networks that are very powerful but not primarily news-focused.
Here’s a look at some of the billionaires who own news media in the United States:
Michael Bloomberg – Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Media
Michael Bloomberg, the richest billionaire in the media business, returned to his eponymous media company in September 2014, eight months after stepping down as mayor of New York City. One notable sign of his influence on the publication: Michael Bloomberg doesn’t appear on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. FORBES pegs his net worth at $45.7 billion. Bloomberg cofounded his financial data company in 1981 with Charles Zegar and Thomas Secunda, both of whom are now billionaires as well thanks to their minority equity stakes in Bloomberg LP. The company expanded into business news coverage and has more than 2,000 reporters around the world. In 2009, Bloomberg LP bought Business Week magazine from McGraw Hill for a reported $5 million plus the assumption of debt.
Rupert Murdoch – News Corp
Rupert Murdoch, a former CEO of 21st Century Fox, the parent of powerhouse cable TV channel Fox News, may well be the world’s most powerful media tycoon. He is executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox with his son Lachlan and is also chairman of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal and other publications. Altogether, his family controls 120 newspapers across five countries. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal also owns 1% of News Corp, after cutting down his holdings from 6% in early 2015.
Donald and Samuel “Si” Newhouse – Advance Publications
Donald Newhouse and his brother Samuel “Si” Newhouse inherited Advance Publications, a privately-held media company that controls a plethora of newspapers, magazines, cable TV, and entertainment assets, from their father. Advance owns newspapers in 25 cities and towns across America and is the country’s largest privately-held newspaper chain. Conde Nast, a unit of Advance Publications, publishes magazines including Wired, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Vogue. Si stepped down as chairman of Conde Nast in 2015.
Cox Family – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cox Enterprises, owned by the billionaire Cox family, counts The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a number of other daily papers among its many media investments. James Cox, the company founder and grandfather of current chairman Jim Kennedy, bought his first newspaper, the Dayton Ohio Evening News, in 1898. The Cox Media Group Division today owns the Journal-Constitution and six other daily newspapers, more than a dozen non-daily publications, 14 broadcast television stations, one local cable channel, and 59 radio stations.
Jeff Bezos – The Washington Post. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. Since beginning his run for president, Trump has accused Bezos of using the Post to get tax breaks for Amazon and
sending reporters after Trump. Bezos denied the allegations at a tech conference at the Washington Post that year. The Post’s reporters also defended themselves, saying that the paper has covered Amazon’s tax problems and that the Post’s editorial board’s stance on taxing online retailers hasn’t changed since Bezos bought the paper.
John Henry – The Boston Globe
Billionaire Red Sox owner John Henry purchased the Boston Globe in October 2013 for $70 million. Henry agreed to purchase the Globe just days after Bezos acquired the Washington Post. The Globe was previously owned by the New York Times for twenty years. At the time of his purchase, Henry said he didn’t plan to influence the paper’s sports coverage.
Sheldon Adelson – The Las Vegas Review-Journal
In December 2014, Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson secretly bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The newspaper’s own reporting outed the billionaire buyer, who reportedly arranged the $140 million deal through his son-in-law. Since then, there have been reports of Adelson influencing coverage of himself at a newspaper that in the past was often critical of the billionaire.
Joe Mansueto – Inc. and Fast Company magazines
Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto made his $2.3 billion fortune at the investment and research firm he founded in 1984. One month after taking Morningstar public in 2005, Mansueto bought Inc. and Fast Company magazine from G&J USA. In a statement at the time, he wrote, “I wasn’t looking to buy a magazine. Or two, for that matter….I bought them because I am passionate about their missions: their past, present, and future contributions.”
Mortimer Zuckerman – US News & World Report, New York Daily News
Real estate billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman is the owner of both US News & World Report and the New York Daily News. Zuckerman serves as chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, which he bought in 1984. In the years since, US News & World Report has made a name for itself with its lucrative rankings, including Best Colleges, Best Graduate School, and Best Hospitals lists. Zuckerman bought the Daily News out of bankruptcy in 1993 and unsuccessfully tried to sell the tabloid newspaper for six months in 2015.
Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman
Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman is a Canadian-American billionaire media proprietor, magazine editor, and investor. He is the co-founder, executive chairman, and former CEO of Boston Properties, one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the US. Zuckerman is also the owner and publisher of U.S. News & World Report, where he serves as editor-in-chief. He formerly owned the New York Daily News, The Atlantic, and Fast Company. On the Forbes 2016 list of the world’s billionaires, he was ranked No. 688 with a net worth of US$2.5 billion. As of January 2020, his net worth is estimated at US$ 3.0 billion.
Barbey family – Village Voice
In October 2015, investor Peter Barbey bought the Village Voice, a New York City alternative weekly, through his investment company Black Walnut Holdings LLC for an undisclosed price. Barbey is a member of the billionaire Barbey family, which made its fortune in textiles and manufacturing. In 1989, John Barbey started the Reading Globe and Mitten Manufacturing Company in Pennsylvania. His son J.E. Barbey took the company, which was then known as Vanity Fair Silk Mills, public in 1951 and the family still owns nearly 20% of the company. The family has also owned a local Pennsylvania paper, The Reading Eagle, for generations.
Stanley Stub Hubbard (*1933) is an American billionaire heir and businessman. He is the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Hubbard Broadcasting, founded by his father. Much of his fortune was earned through the operations of family-owned media holdings which include dozens of radio and television stations in the US. He was also the founder of United States Satellite Broadcasting, a forerunner to Direct TV, which absorbed USB in 1998.
Stanley Hubbard – Hubbard Broadcasting
Media mogul Stanley Hubbard is CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which has 13 TV stations, including a number of ABC and NBC news affiliates in the Midwest, and 48 radio stations. In August, Hubbard bought a stake in PodcastOne, a one-stop shop app for podcasts, through Hubbard Broadcasting. Media runs in Hubbard’s family; his father started Minnesota’s first commercial TV station in 1923.
Patrick Soon-Shiong – Tribune Publishing Co.
On May 23, 2016, Tribune Publishing Co. announced that L.A. doctor and pharmaceutical billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Nant Capital was investing $70.5 million into the media company, making Soon-Shiong the second-largest shareholder. He is now the vice chairman of the media company, which owns papers like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. In an interview with CNBC, Soon-Shiong described his investment as an “opportunity to actually transform this newspaper world into this next generation.” In 2014, Tribune Publishing Co. was spun out of Tribune Company, which changed its name to Tribune Media Co. Tribune Co. had previously been owned by billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell, who took control of Tribune Co. in 2007. Less than a year later, the company went bankrupt. Four years later, Tribune Co. emerged from bankruptcy after being bought by Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co, and JPMorgan Chase.
Carlos Slim Helu – The New York Times
The New York Times published an article last Friday criticizing the power that billionaires wield over media companies. One ultra-wealthy media investor is not mentioned in the story: Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, who owns the largest individual stake in the Times. Slim more than doubled his stake in The New York Times in June 2015 to approximately 17% of the media company.
Warren Edward Buffett (*1930) is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is one of the most successful investors in the world and has a net worth of over $103 billion as of August 2022, making him the world’s seventh-wealthiest person.
Warren Buffett – regional daily papers
Warren Buffett, as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has invested in a number of small newspapers and owns about 70 dailies today. In 2012, Berkshire Hathaway acquired 63 daily newspapers and weeklies in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama from Media General for $142 million.
Viktor Vekselberg – Gawker
Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg‘s investment arm, Columbus Nova Technology Partners, bought a minority stake in Gawker in January 2016 for an undisclosed amount. The online media company took outside funding for the first time in anticipation of legal fees incurred by a lawsuit brought by wrestler Hulk Hogan, according to a leaked memo from Gawker founder Nick Denton. Hogan sued Gawker after it published a sex tape. In March, a jury awarded Hogan $140 million in damages. Gawker aims to appeal the ruling.
Atlantik-Brücke (Atlantic Bridge) is a leading private non-profit association to promote German-American understanding and Atlanticism. Founded in Hamburg in 1952, it was located in Bonn between 1983 and 1999 and is now located in Berlin.
The association organizes invitation-only conferences, seminars, and colloquia. Through various programs for “Young Leaders”, military officers, journalists, and students, Atlantik-Brücke fosters social networks among current and future leaders in business and world affairs. Atlantik-Brücke also awards prizes in honor of Vernon A. Walters and Eric M. Warburg. Atlantik-Brücke annually presents the George H.W. Bush award, an award given to those who have improved German and U.S. relations. It was first shown in August 2015 to its namesake, U.S. statesman Pres. George H.W. Bush at his residence Walker’s Point Estate, Maine.
In 2014, the German political cabaret show Die Anstalt named the Atlantik-Brücke as one of several “NATO-friendly elite networks” that “are little more than transatlantic swinger-clubs”. After exposing that several high-ranking German journalists and media moguls are members of the Atlantik-Brücke (among other American lobbying organizations), the broadcast criticized multiple widely circulated German newspapers as “being akin to local editions of the NATO press office”. Following the broadcast, several journalists whose connections to the Atlantik-Brücke were exposed attempted to sue the ZDF for broadcasting the show. The lawsuit was struck down by the Federal Court of Justice in 2017, which ruled that no personal rights were violated and that the characterizations made by Die Anstalt were “quite accurate”.
Currently, (2022) it has been well-established that US billionaires who own most of the Mass Media in the USA, have placed themselves in a dominant position in “Die Brücke” to determine the news provided through German and European news media to the citizens inside the European Union.
The two Atlantik-Brücke Young Leaders conferences receive more than 500 applications per year, from which 120 Young Leaders are chosen with the help of a steering committee of political, business and academic leaders. Sixty young leaders are chosen for the German-American Conference (30 Americans and 30 Germans) and sixty are chosen for the European Conference. As of 2011, the German-American Young Leaders Conference has been running for 33 years.
The Young Leaders Program initiated by Atlantik-Brücke represents the oldest and largest program dedicated to identifying and nurturing relationships among the future custodians of the transatlantic partnership. Since the first Young Leaders Conference was held in 1973, over 1,500 Europeans and Americans have attended one of thirty-two German-American Young Leaders Conferences or ten European Young Leaders Conferences. Alumni of these prestigious gatherings remain in contact with each other both informally and through regional discussion groups and biennial alumni conferences that had been held under the auspices of Atlantik-Brücke. On January 1, 2011, Atlantik-Brücke established the independent organization “Atlantik Forum e.V. – the Young Leaders Alumni of Atlantik-Brücke” to more effectively facilitate and manage all these activities.
In addition, there is intensifying collaboration with The Young Leaders Class by Klaus Schwab, the Chair of the WEF in Davos.
Usually twice a year, the chosen next-generation Global Leaders meet at the WEF in Davos for further training in elevation.
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