Washington Times Sold For $1, Just Like Newsweek

The deal, priced like Washington Post's Newsweek sale, is meant to foster Sun Myung Moon's legacy.

By + More

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon is regaining control of the Washington Times after allies of the South Korean spiritual leader agreed to acquire the paper for just $1 and assumption of most if its debts, according to an internal memo.

The memo contradicts rumors that a feud among the Moon's sons over control of the Washington Times prompted the father to buy it back for tens of millions of dollars.

The deal is financially similar to the one the Washington Post cut in selling its money-losing Newsweek to businessman Sidney Harmon .

In the memo written by Michael Marshall, UPI editor emeritus and a Times adviser [both are owned by Unification Church controlled News World Media], earlier suggestions that Moon son Preston was planning to close the paper were also challenged. Instead, Marshall wrote that Preston Moon invested money to keep the paper afloat after his brother Justin cut off funding last year from the church sources that have historically funded the Times.

He wrote that Preston was devoted to continuing the paper, even after massive staff cuts, to keep alive the legacy of his father, who started the newspaper in 1982 as a conservative and Christian voice in Washington. "If there was no concern for TWT's future as part of the founder's legacy, it could simply have been closed by [Preston Moon-controlled Unification Church International.] Instead, UCI has struggled valiantly for over a year to keep TWT alive, after funding from Asia was cut off without warning in July 2009."

The letter was written to set the record straight from Preston Moon's point of view. He has been assailed by foes who claim that he never wanted the Times and was diverting funds from the church for his own uses. Instead, the letter claims that Preston Moon borrowed heavily to keep the Times operating because donations raised among church supporters in Japan were diverted by church operations run by his brother Justin.

Times insiders say they don't know which side to believe and are just happy that the feud appears to be ending with the sale of the paper back to those who used to run Times before Moon handed it to his son Preston.

The sale was announced August 23 and will be completed in 30 days. Insiders cheered the deal because it's expected to lead to the resumption of church industry funds needed to keep the paper afloat. "It will turn the spigot back on," said one insider.

Once the sale is complete, many of the former Times officials fired by Preston will be reinstalled. Unclear is what will happen to new editor Sam Dealey and the Washington Times building on New York Avenue NE. Preston Moon had planned to sell the building and move the staff downtown, but no deal was ever made.

Below is the letter from Marshall:

The Washington Times to Sell for One Dollar

There have been a number of rumors floating around – both in UC-related forums and in the public media – relating to the future of The Washington Times (TWT). In my capacity as an advisor on editorial matters for News World Communications LLC I have been close to some of the figures involved in discussions over TWT's future and can shed some well-sourced light on the question.

On Monday August 23, 2010, News World Communications, LLC and News World Media Development LLC (NWMD) signed a Term Sheet setting out the principal terms for the transfer of TWT to NWMD, a Delaware registered company headed by Mr. Douglas M. Joo.

During the next thirty days, the buyer and seller hope to finalize the transfer of TWT to Mr. Joo's company for one dollar, a nominal amount required by law to effectuate a transaction. These are exactly the same terms on which Newsweek was sold by the Washington Post Company at the beginning of August.

Those terms include the assumption of TWT's financial and legal obligations to TWT's employees and creditors. Legal and ethical obligations require this as part of a transfer to any buyer. It was also a key feature of Newsweek's sale.

This is a very different story about TWT than that put out by DCRTV.com, a Washington metro area media blog, and picked up by Huffington Post on Monday 23 August, claiming that TWT was about to close. At that time the offer to sell for one dollar and the buyer's assumption of TWT's expenses, had been on the table for quite some time. The only way TWT was going to shut down was if Mr. Joo's group and those with whom he is affiliated as a source of money, rejected that offer.

It is hard to understand why someone, who clearly had some knowledge of the negotiations, would leak a story claiming TWT was about to close when negotiations were still taking place. Still harder to fathom why they would falsely claim that Hyun Jin Nim [Preston Moon] and TWT's directors' were "finished with the paper" and "couldn't care less about any amount of money that is offered" when News World had proposed the sale for a dollar.

If there was no concern for TWT's future as part of the Founder's legacy, it could simply have been closed by UCI. Instead, UCI has struggled valiantly for over a year to keep TWT alive, after funding from Asia was cut off without warning in July 2009.

TWT had never operated without overseas funding throughout the course of its history to that point. The simple and logical course at that point from a commercial viewpoint would have been to close the paper. However, UCI made every effort to keep it open for the sake of its original mission, even taking on significant financial burden to do so, until a solution could be found.

Despite major cost-saving TWT's position became unsustainable this summer: clearly, TWT cannot continue operating without external funding to cover its deficit. Thus, UCI pressed more strongly to transfer TWT to a UC-related entity so that it could continue to operate in pursuit of its founding ideals.

Hence the one dollar offer.

Furthermore, UCI expressed its willingness to assume its own financial burden it has incurred over the past year in order to keep TWT open if that would expedite transferring TWT to a UC-related entity capable of fulfilling TWT's financial and legal responsibilities.

As a last resort, in the event that the UC and related entities were ready to stand back and let TWT go under, UCI also entertained offers from outside buyers as a transfer was certainly preferable to a shutdown.

Wild rumors have circulated in some UC-related forums that UCI was trying to make tens of millions of dollars from the Founder on the sale of TWT. After funds were cut off without warning last July UCI took on a considerable additional financial burden to keep TWT afloat. UCI had asked for some of that burden to be offset with the money that should have been sent post-July 2009 to support TWT. In the end, however, in order to secure a swift and smooth transfer to a UC-related entity, UCI waived those claims.

The UC establishment has claimed, in a couple of open letters to members, that money was sent from Japan to support the Times but used for other purposes. That is simply untrue as UCI's treasurer, Victor Walters, showed in his letter of response with supporting documents.

Sources in the Japanese community tell me that Japanese leaders raised money for TWT during last year and genuinely believed that it had been sent to UCI. However, UCI confirms that no money ever reached UCI after July 2009. My sources tell me that the Japanese leaders concerned have seen those records and are now convinced this is the case.

What happened to the money remains a mystery at this point and a source of speculation. However, we do know that the money raised passes to Korea and its use there is controlled by Kook Jin Nim [Justin Moon].

Michael Marshall

27 August, 2010


Corrected on 08/31/10: An earlier version of this article misidentified Michael Marshall. He is now UPI editor emeritus.