The Washington Times was ready to close shop last Friday. There was a press release ready to go out the door announcing that, after nearly 30 years and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, the paper was done.
According to Keach Hagey, the press release never went out and on Tuesday afternoon, four years after Reverend Sun Myung Moon passed the paper off to his eldest son Preston, an offer came in from an executive affiliated with the Unification Church to buy it back.
The deal is tied up in family drama and the politics of succession for Mr. Moon, who is 90. From the Washington Post:
Tensions between Preston and his younger brother, Justin Moon, ignited last year, according to church and Times sources, after Preston tried to gain control of another church-supported company, UCI, which has about $3 billion in real estate and fishing assets. In retaliation, Justin, who runs many of the family’s businesses in South Korea and Japan, slashed the Times’s annual $35 million subsidy, forcing the paper into a series of layoffs.
Former Times chairman Dong Moon Joo, who was pushed out by Preston Moon, is leading the bid to buy the paper on behalf of Reverend Moon. “The idea is that Moon wants the paper back and wants Mr. Joo to run it,” one former Times executive told the Post. “That’s what the whole game is about. The old man trusts Joo.”
Since 2002, the Washington Times has hemorrhaged staffers, cut two sections and seen circulaton drop below 50,000. The office has also fallen into a state of disrepair, and in May staffers found a three-foot black snake in the conference room.
The Washington City Paper floated the idea yesterday that billionaire Redskins owner Dan Snyder was interested in the paper.