Venezuelan socialists and media-owning London socialite make strange bedfellows
By Brian Ellsworth
CARACAS Nov 5 (Reuters) - British businessman Robert Hanson is an unlikely Venezuelan media mogul.
A longtime staple of London gossip columns who for years enjoyed the company of high-profile models, Hanson is the son of the late British industrial magnate Lord Hanson who made a fortune in corporate buyouts and was a prominent backer of conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
Robert Hanson's holding company last year acquired Venezuela's best-selling newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, despite its worsening financial results and stringent currency controls that have frequently left foreign companies unable to repatriate profits.
Though they make for strange bedfellows, Hanson, 54, and the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro appear to have harmonious dealings.
Ultimas Noticias has named two ruling Socialist Party members to key posts, including former elections adviser Hector Davila who now serves as the company's president-editor.
Dozens of reporters have resigned since the acquisition by Hanson, whose core companies are not focused on either media or Latin America.
Reporter Jose Rafael Mata said he was ordered to pull from the website a story about complaints by a former minister that the Socialist Party was stifling internal dissent. He tweeted what he said was a picture of a handwritten note that contained the order, and cited the incident as one of the reasons he later resigned.
Hanson bought the paper for the equivalent of $98 million, according to company documents reviewed by Reuters. That came despite Ultimas Noticias's 92 percent profit drop that year and its sizeable offshore debt. Continuación...