After the University of Nevada, Las Vegas announced last fall that they would stop publishing The Believer, the venerable literary magazine now has a new owner.
The magazine, which for nearly two decades published acclaimed fiction and essays under McSweeney’s banner before being sold to UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute five years ago, is now owned by Paradise Media, a digital marketing company headquartered in Puerto Rico. Paradise bought the magazine for $ 225,000 in cash, according to a letter of intent for the acquisition that was released following a request for public records. Vice Technical Vertical, Motherboard, var the first to report the story.
Paradise took over ownership and oversight of all content on April 1; the transfer is expected to be completed this month. The Believers’ last issue of the Black Mountain Institute, No. 139, was published in March.
The purchase comes after UNLV suddenly announced in October that they would stop producing believers, citing a “strategic shift within the college and [Black Mountain Institute] as evidenced by the economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic. “
The news followed a series of accusations against the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, Joshua Wolf Shenk, months after he exposed himself to staff during a video conference last year. He resigned in March 2020. A Times investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment discovered complaints about Shenk’s leadership even before his arrival in Black Mountain in 2015. It also confirmed that Shenk was the subject of at least one Title IX complaint at UNLV.
The public records released by UNLV also included McSweeney’s offer letter to re-acquire the magazine, which was founded in 2003 and purchased by Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute, BMI’s official name, 2017.
The letter, signed by McSweeney President Brian Dice and dated January 5, 2022, offered to create a paid academic internship and two full-time paid internships for UNLV’s creative writing programs; arrange visits by McSweeney’s affiliated staff, poets, and writers to UNLV; and consider submissions from college students to Believer and McSweeney on a quarterly basis. Dice also asked UNLV to cover the financial responsibility for unfulfilled Believer subscriptions.
The letter does not contain a financial offer.
In a statement to The Times, UNLV said they “carefully considered their options. The sale of the publication’s assets was the result of a bidding process and after a review, the best financial decision was made for BMI and its continued mission.”
“UNLV received two offers to acquire The Believer assets,” it continued. “Paradise Media offered $ 225,000, with UNLV covering financial responsibility for unfulfilled subscriptions. McSweeney’s requested that the assets be granted to them free of charge and that UNLV also cover the financial responsibility for any unfulfilled subscriptions with a total net loss for the university.”
Dice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The sale took effect on December 23, 2021 and was signed in early February by Ian Moe, CEO of Paradise Media; Jennifer Keene, Dean of UNLV’s College of Liberal Arts; and Chris Heavey, the university’s provost and vice president.
As first reported by Gawker Earlier this week, a former believer employee raised concerns on Twitter over a clickbait article titled “25 Best Hookup Sites for Flings, New Trysts, and Casual Dating” on the magazine’s website. The piece has since been removed.
A group called Sexleksakskollektivet, which is owned by Paradise Media, responded in a tweet that has since been deleted: “Hi, this is the new owner of The Believer. We bought the website to keep the archives up. Our goal is to get back magazine, but since it lost tens of thousands a month, we need to make it money with SEO and then use it to get all the original writers back. “