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The Washington Times to be sold for $1

WASHINGTON -- The saga surrounding The Washington Times could be drawing to a close, with the paper being sold by one part of the Unification Church to another for $1, along with its financial obligations.

Washington Times: $1 sale mooted

Washington Times: $1 sale mooted

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The sale, which is similar to that of Newsweek, which also recently sold for $1, would mean the transfer of the paper from one Unification Church-affiliated buyer to another, according to a memo released to the media last night.

The memo, written by editorial adviser Michael Marshall, said that paper would move from a company controlled by Preston Moon, the son of Unification Church leader the Rev Sun Myung Moon, to one headed by former Times publisher Doug Joo, who is close to Rev Moon.

As part of the deal, Joo's Delaware-based News World Media Development would also take on the struggling paper's debts.

The paper, which is currently run by Preston Moon's News World Communications, has struggled to stay afloat and has cut around 40% of its staff as well as several editorial sections.

Last week, it had been speculated that the paper could close and that Preston Moon had no interest in continuing to publish it.

The memo (below in full) tackles that closure speculation, which began last week on the blog DCRTV.com. That story then spread around the internet. This led the Washington Post to examine how a story now develops online from gossip and rumour to fact.

The Marshall memo: 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 adviser 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

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