The previously anonymous buyers of alternative newspaper LA Weekly have been revealed, weeks after the paper was sold and the vast majority of its editorial staff fired.
The sale of the newspaper was announced on Oct. 18 and the deal finalized Nov. 29. On the same day the sale was made official, nine members of the paper's 13 editorial staff members were laid off, including all five editors. Only one staff writer remained.
The paper's new owner was announced as Semanal Media Group, a new company created for the single purpose of buying LA Weekly, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While the company's name was public, the names of Semanal Media Group's investors, the defacto owners of LA Weekly, remained shrouded in mystery except for two people: David Welch, a lawyer known for representing clients in the cannabis industry, and Brian Calle, LA Weekly's new operations manager.
The Society for Professional Journalists issued a harsh statement calling on the new owners to reveal themselves, saying such secrecy cannot become the norm, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"There is no excuse for the owners of the LA Weekly to hide their identities, and they should be revealed immediately," SPJ President Rebecca Barker said in the statement. "To not reveal yourselves is to treat your readers with less dignity than humans deserve and with less respect than democracy should demand. It is appalling and offensive."
On Nov. 29, an article was published on the LA Weekly website titled "Who Owns L.A. Weekly?"
"The new owners of L.A. Weekly don't want you to know who they are. They are hiding from you. They've got big black bags with question marks covering their big bald heads," the article read.
"These new owners just laid off nine hardworking journalists," the article continued. "Why? For sport? To start anew? To fulfill a blood vendetta that is centuries old? Maybe they have a good reason. Maybe they don't. We don't know. You don't know. No one knows but them."
Two days after the mysterious buyers were called out by the paper they now own, they have revealed themselves in a post on the LA Weekly website written by Calle.
"Our new ownership team is a patchwork of people who care about Los Angeles, care about the community and want to once again see an incredibly relevant, thriving L.A. Weekly with edge and grit that becomes the cultural center of the city," Calle wrote.
Calle goes on to list the investors other than himself and Welch: Kevin Xu, a philanthropist; Steve Mehr, a lawyer; Paul Makarechian, a hotel developer; Mike Mugel, a real estate developer; and Andy Bequer, an investor. Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Berkeley's law school, is also expected to invest, according to the post.
Calle does not directly mention the laid off journalists in the post, instead describing how the new owners want to turn LA Weekly into a "truly digital media outlet."