15 Billionaires Own America’s News Media Companies
that billionaire Peter
Thiel is funding
Hulk Hogan’s trial against news website Gawker set the media
and technology worlds on fire last week, 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.
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 NYT
+0.44%, in addition to magazines, local papers and online
billionaires, including Comcast CMCSA
+3.84% CEO Brian
Roberts and Liberty
+0% Chairman John
Malone, own or control cable TV networks that are powerful but not
primarily news focused.
Here’s a look at
some of the billionaires who own news media in the United States:
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 assumption of debt.
Murdoch – News
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.
and Samuel “Si” Newhouse – Advance
Newhouse and his brother Samuel “Si” Newhouse
inherited Advance Publications, a privately-held media company that
controls a plethora of newspapers, magazine, 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.
Family – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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.
Bezos – The Washington Post
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
in May. 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.
Henry – The Boston Globe
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.
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.
Mansueto – Inc. and Fast Company magazines
+0.11% 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
at the time, he wrote, “I wasn’t looking to buy a magazine. Or
two, for that matter….I bought them because I’m passionate about their
missions. Their past, present, and future contributions.”
Zuckerman – US News & World Report, New York Daily News
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.
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.
Hubbard – Hubbard Broadcasting
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.
Soon-Shiong – Tribune Publishing Co.
On May 23,
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
Slim Helu – The New York Times
The New York
an article last Friday criticizing the power that
billionaires wield over media companies. One ultra-wealthy media
investor 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.
Buffett – regional daily papers
as CEO of Berkshire
+0%, 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.
Vekselberg – Gawker
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.
Conglomerate #1: National Amusements
directly involved in business and / or entertainment, you’ve probably
never heard of National Amusements before.
The company owns
movie theaters throughout the world — about 950 total — but it owns much
more than just movie theaters.
collection of properties is staggering. Whether they own a company
entirely, possess majority shares, or even own minority voting shares,
the scope of NA’s reach is enormous for a company that’s known less than
To start our look
at NA, let’s check out one of the biggest names in modern business —
is current owner of National Amusements and all of its properties. While
his daughter Shari has the title of President, Sumner Redstone retains
most of the control over the company.
NA was first
founded by Sumner Redstone’s father Michael Redstone, making National
Amusements one of the most powerful and successful corporate dynasties
in the United States.
None of the
Redstones publish their salaries. After all, National Amusements is a
experts can guess at Sumner Redstone’s overall net worth.
His net worth
refers to the total financial value of what Sumner Redstone owns, minus
any outstanding debts.
As he nears his
94th birthday in 2017, Sumner Redstone (and his estate) is worth an
estimated $4.6 billion, according to Forbes.
While a decent
amount of that value comes from his stake in National Amusements, much
more of it comes from the companies that he owns.
and Film Assets
The most famous
assets of National Amusements are almost all Viacom and CBS properties.
make up the lion’s share of NA’s television and film acquisitions.
only a portion of what NA owns.
Amusements has a modest collection of print publishers, but they’re
well-known is Simon and Schuster, which National Amusements acquired
when it purchased Viacom in 1999.
Along with other
entertainment assets, National Amusements controls CBS Games.
acquisition, CBS Games has rebranded to CBS Interactive, which now
controls well-known gaming websites that we’ll look at next.
Interactive, National Amusements controls giant chunks of the video game
news and sports news industries.
include GameSpot, metacritic, c|net, and 247-Sports.
Conglomerate #2: Disney
probably the most well-known media name on this list.
The company has a
hand in just about every medium in the world from children’s cinema to
When it comes to
television and film, there’s a good chance you’re watching something
owned by the Disney company — even if it doesn’t have Disney’s name.
so, so much.
Let’s start with
the company’s leader.
Bob Iger as CEO on March 13, 2005, following the departure of Michael
Since then, Iger
has run a campaign of mergers and acquisitions to expand Disney into an
even greater media powerhouse, especially with the acquisition of Marvel
($4 billion) and Lucasfilm ($4 billion).
salary is $44.9 million. That breaks down to:
- $1.73 million per paycheck
- $172,692.32 per day
- $21,586.54 per hour
Why does Iger
make so much money?
oversees all of the following companies.
and Film Assets
First, let’s look
at the bread and butter of Disney — television and film.
have theme parks built to their entertainment assets, it’s clear that
Disney is best known for its TV and film properties.
There are so many
different companies that you really just have to see it for yourself.
assets are a mix of proprietary publishers, Lucasfilm acquisitions, and
The mix gives
Disney a controlling interest in massive publishing niches, especially
comic books and science fiction novels.
Disney also owns
ESPN, which has its own publishing arm for all things sports.
owns a few video game assets.
They’re not huge,
but they’re enough to keep Disney mildly competitive and up-to-date in
the video game industry (especially mobile gaming).
subsidiary of Disney Interactive Studios, is one of the best-known video
game developers bought by Disney.
Conglomerate #3: TimeWarner
At the time of
publication (11/7/16), it’s possible that ATandT will soon buy
TimeWarner for around $80 billion.
If that happens,
ATandT will acquire everything below and more.
In the meantime,
let’s take a more in-depth look at TimeWarner and what it owns.
Jeff Bewkes is
the CEO of TimeWarner. He makes $32.5 million per year.
That works out
- $1.25 million per paycheck
- $125,000 per work day
- $15,625 per hour