Washington, D.C. businessman and Washington Kastles owner Marc Ein is set to be the next owner of the Washington City Paper, according to the paper’s blog post on Dec. 28. The deal is set to close soon.
The news comes a few weeks after Armstrong Williams, Ben Carson’s business manager, decided he no longer wanted to venture into the free newspaper business.
The same local reporter who tweeted that Williams planned to bid on D.C.’s Washington City Paper, recently tweeted that the media mogul told him he will not be the next owner of the paper.
“I’m going to stay in the space I’m welcome: television stations,” Ben Terris, a writer for the Washington Post tweeted the media mogul saying on Dec. 11.
The change of direction seems sudden when on Dec. 7, Williams’ spokesman Shermichael Singleton confirmed to the AFRO via email that Williams has made a bid for the paper.
“Mr. Williams has always been committed to journalism, both print and media,” Singleton wrote. “His interest in WCP is out of respect and admiration for the history of the paper and the role it has played in D.C. As the media landscape changes because of technology, Mr. Williams understands the importance of preserving such institutions as the Washington City Paper, hence his interest in it.”
However, it was not the possibility of Williams’ acquisition of a paper that caused buzz in the Beltway. Instead, it was the type of paper he was eying. Known for progressive prose and alternative stories, the publication is viewed by many as an unlikely match for Williams, who gained notoriety for his right-of-center views, his defense of Clarence Thomas during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmations, and as a campaign strategist for 2016 presidential candidate Ben Carson.
But Williams said that the unlikelihood of the match is one of the reasons the conservative operative wanted to buy the paper.
“My goal is to make the City Paper so good people will be saying, ‘Are you sure Armstrong Williams is the owner of this paper?’” he told the Washington Post. “That would be a success.”
Unsurprisingly, City Paper employees don’t seem as optimistic about the news of their potential new boss. Mother Jones, which initially broke the story in November, reported that employees learned of Williams’ interest earlier that month. According to the Post, a number of these same staffers “have discussed the possibility of quitting.”
Williams’ attempted acquisition of the City Paper, like many of his previous actions, is wrought with controversy and uncertainty. However, this was not Williams’ first failed entrepreneurial encounter with the media world.
Singleton described him as “the largest minority owner of broadcast television stations in the United States,” and noted that Williams attempted unsuccessfully to purchase Essence Magazine and D.C.’s well-known Capitol Hill publication, The Hill.
For more than three decades, The Washington City Paper has been a source of local political news in the D.C. area. Despite its longevity, readership and revenue have declined in recent years; in 2008, the paper declared bankruptcy.
The City Paper’s current owners, Nashville-based SouthComm, announced plans to sell the D.C. publication in October. How much SouthComm is seeking for the publication remains unclear.