Robertson Considers Bid For Norfolk Newspaper

Pat Robertson has criticized coverage of him in the Virginian-Pilot, owned by Landmark Communications, which is exploring a sale of its assets.
Pat Robertson has criticized coverage of him in the Virginian-Pilot, owned by Landmark Communications, which is exploring a sale of its assets. (By Emilio Morenatti -- Associated Press)
By Sonja Barisic
Associated Press
Saturday, January 12, 2008

NORFOLK, Jan. 11 -- Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson is considering making an offer for the Virginian-Pilot, a daily newspaper he has criticized for its coverage of him.

The Pilot is the flagship newspaper of Landmark Communications, which said last week that it was evaluating whether to sell its assets, including the Weather Channel.

"Although the price for the Weather Channel is a little rich for my blood, I am considering a potential bid for the Pilot and have asked my attorneys to look into it," Robertson said in an e-mailed statement.

Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, said the newspaper could provide internships for journalism students at Regent University, the private college he founded. CBN and Regent are in Virginia Beach.

Landmark's vice chairman, Richard F. Barry III, declined to comment.

Analysts have estimated that the Weather Channel could sell for as much as $5 billion, especially if coupled with its popular Web site. The Pilot's value is unknown. The newspaper said in an article Friday that it most recently had an average seven-day audited circulation of 186,489.

Robertson has objected to articles in the newspaper that he said unfairly characterized him and his activities. In 1999, he disputed the Pilot's report that Virginia's consumer protection agency wanted to prosecute his international charity, Operation Blessing, for making deceptive appeals for donations but was overruled by the state attorney general's office.

The newspaper, citing a report by the consumer agency, said Robertson made false claims about the use of Operation Blessing airplanes in humanitarian relief efforts in Africa when the planes were used to haul equipment for a Robertson-backed diamond mining venture.

Most recently, Robertson wrote a letter to the editor accusing the Pilot of leaving out key facts provided to a reporter after the newspaper reported in December that nearly half of the faculty members in Regent's counseling program had left and that students had been punished for voicing concerns.

Robertson founded CBN in 1960 with a UHF station in Portsmouth. The network, which now has about 2,800 employees, produces programs worldwide.

Robertson is host of the CBN talk show "The 700 Club." He ran for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, founded the once-influential Christian Coalition and made millions of dollars through business investments.

Landmark, which had $1.75 billion in sales in 2006, employs about 12,000 people, according to Hoover's, a business reference service. It owns nine daily newspapers and more than 100 other papers and specialty publications. Landmark also owns television stations in Las Vegas and Nashville, and Norfolk-based Dominion Enterprises, a national chain of classified-ad publications.

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