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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Could Scaife get his hands on Newsweek?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 12:59 PM

Somebody get the 2 Political Junkies on the phone. Dick Scaife's web o' influence might -- just might -- expand to include a nationally known weekly magazine.

As you may have heard, Newsweek is bust and looking for a buyer. And according to a Wall Street Journal dispatch late last week, among the interested parties is a protege of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review publisher Richard Mellon Scaife. 

OpenGate Capital, the investment firm that owns TV Guide, plans to formally declare its interest in acquiring Newsweek before Wednesday's deadline for nonbinding bids, according to managing partner Andrew Nikou. Christopher Ruddy, publisher of the conservative monthly magazine Newsmax, said he also plans to bid.

Ruddy is a former contributor to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Reivew, and his book The Strange Death of Vincent Foster may have represented the nadir of 1990s conspiracy theories about President Bill Clinton. (Scaife notably referred to the death of Foster, a White House aide who committed suicide, as the "Rosetta Stone" of the Clinton administration.)

Scaife bankrolled the launch of Newsmax in 1998, and he remains, according to Forbes magazine, a 40 percent owner in the venture.  Ruddy's name still appears frequently in the Trib's pages.

Whatever else it would be, a Ruddy/Scaife purchase of Newsweek would be ironic as hell. Newsweek is, after all, owned by the Washington Post Company. And you may remember that when the Post's publisher, Katherine Graham, died in 2001, the Tribune-Review ran an obituary -- thoughtfully archived on Newsmax itself -- that all but accused her of killing her husband:

She married Felix Frankfurter's brilliant law clerk, Philip Graham, who took over running The Post, which her father purchased at a bankruptcy sale. Graham built the paper but became estranged from Kay. She had him committed to a mental hospital, and he was clearly intending divorce when she signed him out and took him for a weekend outing during which he was found shot. His death was ruled a suicide. Within 48 hours, she declared herself the publisher.

Could it be that Scaife, whose paper published what Salon.com called "the most tasteless obituary of the year," might end up owning part of the Graham family legacy? Too soon to tell: Bids for Newsweek are due tomorrow, and as the Journal story makes clear, there are already other interested parties. 

But if Ruddy does end up controlling Newsweek, it'll ensure that the 2PJs never lack for material again.

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