The new owners of LA Weekly are defined by chaos, lies, and a disregard for basic ethical standards.

The civic disgrace began last October, when Voice Media Group announced the sale of LA Weekly to Semanal Media. There was no information available regarding Semanal or the people behind it. All anyone knew was that “Semanal” was a shell company created solely for the purpose of the purchase.

On November 29, all of LA Weekly’s top editorial staffers were let go. Over the course of a single afternoon, they demolished decades worth of journalistic expertise and institutional knowledge. LA Weekly was effectively dead. The new owners handled the layoffs via phone and email, failing to even identify themselves even to the longtime staffers they had fired. 

It’s unheard of for newspaper owners to refuse to identify themselves, particularly in one of the largest publications in America’s second largest city. This secrecy was called “appalling and offensive” by the president of Society of Professional Journalists.

The situation became clearer on December 1, when Brian Calle published a story on LA Weekly revealing that there were a dozen new owners, all men, and all with strong ties to Orange County. Calle and the new owners have donated fortunes to Republican candidates throughout the United States. Almost three months after the sale, there is reason to believe that the identities of several of the new owners have still not been revealed.

These are the men who have been identified thus far:

Brian Calle

(LA Weekly co-owner and publisher)
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As the former op-ed editor of the Orange County Register and 10 other local papers in the Southern California News Group chain, Calle stumped for conservative nostrums like school choice vouchers, the privatization of Social Security and the privatization of prisons. He cheered as Governor Scott Walker busted public-employee unions in Wisconsin. He praised and the OC Board of Supervisors for voting to reject federal grant money available through Obamacare. He beseeched Sacramento lawmakers to shun the California Teachers Association. He celebrated the virtues of Ayn Rand and regurgitated pro-Kremlin talking points like “Putin had no choice but to annex Crimea.”

Before that, the self-described ‘free-market enthusiast’” was vice president of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank whose fellows are “on the frontlines in the battle of ideas with progressives, delivering strong, persuasive arguments for the conservative agenda.” With their emphasis on "winning the war of ideas," The New York Review of Books referred to them as “Trump’s Brains.” It’s ultra-conservative, agenda-driven alumni include James O'Keefe of Project Veritas and conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart.

Calle’s YouTube page includes interviews with conservative politicians including Carly Fiorina, controversial Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Dinesh D’Souza, who came under fire after publicly mocking the teenage survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

On December 4, Calle appeared on KCRW’s Press Play with Madeleine Brand to discuss his takeover of the Weekly. He lied extensively during this interview, even stating that no one at the Weekly had been fired, when in reality, he pink-slipped nine people weeks before the holidays.

Calle’s political donations include $5,000 to the Lincoln Club of Orange County, who he has publicly celebrated for “rescuing the GOP.”  

 

Mike Mugel

The commercial real estate developer has donated $262,900 to PAC’s such as “Trump Victory” and “Conservative, Authentic Responsive Leadership for You and For America.” In 2015 alone, he made a $100,000 donation to CARLY, a super PAC for former Republican presidential nominee Carly Fiorina. In an piece about this PAC, The New Yorker reported that “If Carly and CARLY have a message, it is that stretching the rules to an absurd degree shouldn’t embarrass anyone.”

Andy Bequer 

A mysterious "SoCal investor" who donated $2,500 to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and is a member of the Cubans for Trump Facebook group.

Steve Mehr

Mehr owns a bail bond business chain and also runs Webshark360, a marketing company for law firms. Shortly after the sale, Mehr -- who resides in the luxury enclave of Dana Point -- told the LA Times that Los Angeles doesn’t “have a cultural scene on par with New York and San Francisco." He donated money to the failed U.S. Senate bid of California Republican legislator Ray Haynes, who supports a ban on same-sex marriage and once falsely stated that "sodomy is a violation of . . . the California Penal Code."

Paul Makarechian

An Orange County-based boutique hotelier whose properties include Dana Point luxury hotel the St. Regis. This hotel hosted Wall Street executives immediately after the government bailout and once threw a party where servants wore white powdered wigs and served "six kinds of caviar."

Makarechian is the founder of Gen Next, a self-proclaimed “invitation-only organization of successful individuals" that is a de facto conservative think tank. Its Gen Equity Federal PAC has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns throughout the United States, including candidates who support ending net neutrality, repealing the Affordable Care Act and crushing access to reproductive care.

He’s also the founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based "counter-extremism" think-tank with deep financial ties to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. The network reportedly includes former Bush administration officials behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and overlaps with far-right anti-Muslim leaders who inspired Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.

David Welch

In 2017, the Los Angeles-based attorney donated $4,000 to the Committee to Re-Elect Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, The Orange County Republican has been called “Putin’s favorite congressperson,” to where Russia considers him an intelligence asset complete with his own Kremlin code name. Closely tied with many of the LA Weekly owners, Rohrabacher’s name has frequently emerged near the center of Robert Mueller’s collusion investigation.

Welch boasts heavy ties to the marijuana industry. In 2015, after the controversial police raid of a Santa Ana dispensary, he represented the Santa Ana Cannabis Association in suing local unlicensed dispensaries. Orange County cannabis attorney Matthew Pappas subsequently stated that these “actions taken by Welch and his partners to protect the profits of their clients who obtained licenses through political contributions and anti-competitive methods are not only improper, but [also] designed to harm the patients for whom medical cannabis was provided by the voters.

Kevin Xu

No one understands a corpse like Kevin Xu. A philanthropist and investor, Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California and Beijing-based company focused on human body regenerative and restoration science.