They have bought everything from the Chrysler Building to the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas. So why not some of the biggest newspapers in the U.S.?
We are referring, of course, to foreign, oil-rich investors. Leading newspapers in Chicago, San Diego, Newark and Austin are very much up for sale now and many others will soon go on the block -- and surely many others in the struggling industry (use your imagination) could be had with the right offer that would appeal to increasingly nervous shareholders.
Kiss them Dubai?
This is the message of a terrific and lengthy blog posting by the always-insightful Alan D. Mutter, the former top newspaper editor who became a Silicon Valley mover-and-shaker about 20 years ago.
He's given me permission to quote at length from it and you will find a link to it all below, at his "Reflections of a Newsosaur" site. Here is an excerpt.
For considerably less than $1 billion of the up to $800 billion in its coffers, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council could buy the Newark Star-Ledger, Chicago Sun-Times and San Diego Union-Tribune and turn them into U.S. editions of the National, the new English-language paper launched in the spring by the state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Co.
In addition to grabbing major publishing platforms with convenient access to three of the nation's largest and most influential population centers, the oil-rich emirate, which is one of the seven states comprising the UAE, also might consider buying the Austin American-Statesman to gain a major voice in the capital of the state that, with all due respect to Alaska, is the hub of the American petroleum business.
Once established in three or four major U.S. markets, the National could expand publication to other cities in the same way USA Today, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal publish via satellite printing plants. Alternatively, Abu Dhabi could continue publishing the newspapers under their existing names, supplementing the indigenous coverage with articles and editorials from the National. Or, it could do both.
Why would Abu Dhabi want to buy a bunch of American papers? The emirate, like several other wealthy world powers, is eager to diversify its national treasure in a broad array of industries in a variety of countries. Owning a group of widely disseminated publications in the United States would give the emirate the extra dividend of a powerful platform for asserting political and commercial influence....
In both motive and means, Abu Dhabi is far from alone. It is but one of more than a dozen so-called sovereign investment funds created by countries as diverse as Australia, China, Hong Kong, Khazistan, Libya, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Taken together, the sovereign funds, which are unregulated and essentially answer to no one but the political authorities in their respective lands, have perhaps as much as $3 trillion to spend, according to the European Central Bank.
Mutter closes with this: "A return to the vigorous partisanship that was common in the American press in the 18th and early-19th centuries might make for some lively reading. If our papers fall into the wrong hands, however, the consequences for our democracy could be calamitous."
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.