CNN Money reported that Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Mike Hengel was offered and accepted a buyout and will step down as editor of Nevada's largest newspaper.
Hengel's decision comes after the Review-Journal was purchased by an unnamed person later discovered to be top Republican donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The purchase has concerned many of the reporters at the paper who feared a loss of editorial control in deference to the new owner. Prior to stepping down, Hengel had instructed reporters to begin working on identifying the long list of "perceived conflicts of interest" that were likely to surround the paper and their new owner.
CNN Money's December 22 article reporting his resignation said Hengel “thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be 'adversarial' and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.”
Mike Hengel, the top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is stepping aside, less than two weeks after the family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson took control of the newspaper.
One reporter said the newsroom was “stunned” by the announcement, which Hengel made on Tuesdayevening in the midst of a turbulent period for Nevada's biggest newspaper.
Wednesday's edition will include a message from the Adelson family on the front page. It says “we pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate.” It describes plans for “new investments” and the establishment of an ombudsman.
Retaining the trust of readers will be difficult for the paper, especially if other veteran journalists follow Hengel to the exit.
A round of end-of-the-year buyouts were initiated before Adelson purchased the paper on December 10. Hengel was originally not eligible. But the eligibility rules were apparently changed for him.
According to tweets and people who were present for the announcement, Hengel told his staffers that he did not ask for a buyout, but that he was offered one shortly after the change in ownership. He did not say who made the offer. But he said he thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be “adversarial” and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.
“I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family,” Hengel said, according to reporter Neal Morton.
Hengel did not respond to a request for further comment.
The owners' letter in Wednesday's paper said managers “will appoint an interim editor and will immediately begin a search for the next permanent Review-Journal editor.”
Hengel's departure comes at a time of widespread unease about what the new owners intend to do.
Longtime Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who was once sued by Adelson, wrote over the weekend that “Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper.”