Jeff Bezos, the founder and owner of Amazon.com, has bought the Washington Post. That was just days after the New York Times unloaded the Boston Globe to the owner of the Boston Red Sox. But those aren’t the only surprising media acquisitions. Newsweek, which used to belong to the Post, has been bought by a company with ties to the controversial evangelist David Jang, who started the news site The Christian Post.
Journalism websites are abuzz today with news that IAC/InterActiveCorp sold the once-iconic Newsweek title to IBT Media, publisher of the website International Business Times. Most media coverage focuses on the history of the magazine, including the death of its print publication in December and IAC chairman Barry Diller’s comment that his buying it had been a “mistake.”
But few sites are noting that IBT has significant ties to David Jang, the Korean pastor hailed by some of his followers as a messianic figure, a “Second Coming Christ.”
Christianity Today published two major articles on Jang last year, quoting multiple sources who described an international network with Jang as its spiritual—and sometimes even operational—leader.
Jang has been a controversial figure in Asia since 2008, when a committee of Hong Kong theologians and church leaders “unanimously expressed its serious apprehensions and concerns.” His views and influence continue to be debated in South Korea and in the U.S. And last year, the National Association of Evangelicals appointed a committee to determine “theological compatibility” between the Jang-founded Olivet University and the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources. The findings of that committee have not been publicly released, but after reviewing the committee’s report LifeWay officials withdrew from plans to sell a 2,100-acre New Mexico conference center to the school.
IBTimes has no public or formal ties to Jang. According to CT sources, IBTimes CEO Etienne Uzac owns 55 percent of the company and chief content officer Johnathan Davis owns 45 percent. Jang does not appear on the company’s “leadership” page—nor on any of its other pages.
But in CT’s reporting for the earlier two stories, several sources said that IBTimes was very much a part of Jang’s network. IBTimes leaders took part in internet chats with Jang (usually weekly) where the pastor laid out his plans for various business units, like Olivet University and the Christian Post. . . .
Still, IBTimes is more connected to Olivet than IBT executives are suggesting.
When Buzzfeed’s Peter Lauria noted CT’s earlier reporting on Jang and IBT, co-owners Uzac and Davis “conceded that they had a working relationship with Olivet University, which was founded by Jang.”
Lauria continues: “The relationship involves such things are placing students in internships, using the school’s servers, and getting design assistance. ‘That’s as far as it goes,’ said Davis, who likened the arrangement to how Stanford funnels students to Silicon Valley companies like Google.”
Uzac said he has been to Olivet several times and has met and knows Jang. He added that IBT has had a “great working relationship with” Olivet so far and would continue to explore opportunities with the University just as it would with other organizations.
Lauria’s report does not note that Davis is married to Olivet president Tracy McBeal Davis, that Davis formerly served as former director of journalism at Olivet, and that Olivet’s website had listed Uzac as its treasurer.