Despite those setbacks, Mr. Moon remained at the helm of a dizzying web of hundreds of businesses and nonprofit organizations that reached into the lives of millions of people around the world and exerted a powerful influence on American politics.
In addition to South Korean businesses that ran the gamut from ginseng tea to machine guns, his sprawling empire included an automobile plant and hotel in North Korea and banks and vast tracts of real estate in South America. In Japan, an army of salespeople sold ornamental pagodas and other religious trinkets.
In the Washington area, the church and its affiliates owned more than $300 million in commercial, political and cultural enterprises, including the Kirov Academy of Ballet in the District, an Alexandria video production firm called Atlantic Video and the mall jewelry store chain Christian Bernard.
Mr. Moon’s groups owned a university in Bridgeport, Conn., a recording studio and travel agency in Manhattan, a horse farm in Texas and a golf course in California.
The preacher also built a vast seafood enterprise that includes fishing boats, processors and distributors from Alaska to Gloucester, Mass. According to a 2006 Chicago Tribune investigation, Mr. Moon’s True World Foods provided most of the raw fish consumed at sushi restaurants in the United States.
Starting the Times
His most prominent investment was the Washington Times, founded in 1982 as a conservative counterbalance to what Mr. Moon perceived as The Washington Post’s liberal bias.
The broadsheet, whose circulation reached 100,000 at its peak, was a financial drain — it never climbed out of the red and soaked up about $1.7 billion in church subsidies during its first 20 years in business. But it quickly became an important national voice for the conservative right. President Ronald Reagan reportedly read it daily, and its reporters earned respect for scooping other media outlets, including The Post.
“Many comfortable Washington political bureaucrats who have had their beautiful offices inside big marble buildings considered Reverend Moon and the Unification Church as insignificant as peanuts,” Mr. Moon reportedly said soon after launching the paper. “However, now they have found themselves having to respond to the Washington Times. They are reading it and trembling at some of the stories.”