Israel's 100 Most Influential People This Jewish Year / First Bibi, Now Romney: Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson, the world's 14th wealthiest man, has deployed his casino billions to dominate the Israeli press with his free daily Israel Hayom, the PM's mouthpiece.

Many Israelis know Sheldon Adelson as a media magnate. A few years ago he launched Yisrael Hayom, a free daily newspaper that quickly displaced Yedioth Ahronoth as the market leader. He is currently in the limelight as the biggest, most influential donor to U.S Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

A Boston Globe headline recently claimed that "Adelson has shown how billions can buy a place on the international stage," noting that the gambling tycoon was seated next to Romney on his recent visit to Jerusalem. According to American media, there is not much love between Romney and Adelson, who initially supported Newt Gingrich, Romney's rival in the primaries. But money does talk. Adelson has reportedly pledged $100 million to the Republican effort to unseat President Obama.

This poses serious questions. How close can a businessman get to a politician based only on his wealth? More importantly, how much influence will Adelson have if Romney wins? Indeed, $100 million is not a lot for Adelson, who according to Forbes magazine is the 14th richest man in the world, with a net worth of $25 billion (in 2012 ). Most of his money was made in casinos and hospitality centers in the United States, Macau and Singapore. With his resources he can afford to aggressively distribute Yisrael Hayom on street corners and in gas stations, while negotiating the purchase of the printing presses of Haaretz and Maariv. So far, his paper is printed at Haaretz, but such a deal would make him even more powerful and independent in the print journalism field.

Such power is important to Adelson. Even at age 79, the casino king regards Yedioth publisher Arnon "Noni" Mozes as his nemesis in Israel. Mozes formerly dominated the Israeli newspaper market and is currently doing his utmost to topple Netanyahu, Adelson's protege. He is also trying to hurt Adelson and his paper, which supports Netanyahu's right-wing agenda.

Yedioth Ahronoth, in contrast, constantly attacks Netanyahu. While restraining attacks on tycoons, the paper criticizes Netanyahu on socioeconomic issues. As publisher of the second largest paper and a holder of considerable influence at Channel 2 TV, Mozes is still very influential. Many people consider Adelson's money and his paper as harmful to democracy and the stability of the press in Israel. Everyone knows that Yisrael Hayom is not objective and serves to further the interests of Adelson and the current government. Some, however, regard this paper as playing an important role by weakening Mozes' media dominance. Whereas Yisrael Hayom's agenda and editorial policy are clear, Mozes has constructed a much more complex system in the local press. Millions of readers are not aware of his control of and intervention in what is published. Mozes' interests and agenda are unknown, making them more dangerous than the known ones of Adelson.

Sheldon Adelson