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Pat Robertson may bid for paper he criticized

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson is considering making an offer for The Virginian-Pilot, a daily newspaper he has criticized for its coverage of him and his activities.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson is considering making an offer for The Virginian-Pilot, a daily newspaper he has criticized for its coverage of him and his activities.

The Pilot is the flagship newspaper of Norfolk-based Landmark Communications Inc., which announced last week that it was evaluating whether to sell all 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-mail statement provided Friday by his assistant, G.G. Conklin.

Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network who unsuccessfully ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1988, said the newspaper could provide internships for journalism students at Regent University, the private Christian school he founded. Both CBN and Regent are in nearby Virginia Beach. He also founded the once-influential Christian Coalition and made millions of dollars through business investments.

He is also known for on-air commentary that critics called offensive. He has said that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and suggested that the debilitating stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was divine retribution for his decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Robertson, through Conklin, turned down an interview request.

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

Officials with the family-owned company have said the sales process could take at least six months to complete. They have declined to say why the sale was being considered.

While analysts have estimated the Atlanta-based Weather Channel could fetch up to $5 billion, especially if coupled with its popular Web site, the newspaper's worth is unclear. The Pilot said in article Friday first reporting Robertson's interest that it most recently had an average seven-day audited circulation of 186,489.

Robertson has objected over the years to articles in the newspaper that he said unfairly characterized him and his activities.

Most recently, he wrote a letter to the editor accusing the Pilot of leaving out critical facts provided to the writer after the paper reported in December that nearly half of the faculty members in Regent's counseling program have left and that students have been punished for voicing concerns.

"I am committed to giving both students and faculty what they need to perform with excellence," Robertson wrote.

Robertson founded CBN in 1960 with a tiny UHF station in nearby Portsmouth.

The network has grown to about 2,800 employees, producing programs in more than 225 countries, and Robertson is host of its news-and-talk show, "The 700 Club."

Landmark, which had $1.75 billion in sales in 2006, employs about 12,000, according to Hoover's, a business reference service. It is parent to nine daily papers and more than 100 nondaily newspapers and specialty publications.

Landmark also owns television stations in Las Vegas and Tennessee, and Norfolk-based Dominion Enterprises, a national chain of classified-ad publications.