A fool and his money — are the new owners of Newsweek financing a South Korean cult?

IBT Media, Olivet University, David Jang and… Me?


When IBT Media, a little known digital news startup, purchased Newsweek last summer, I was immediately skeptical. Not because I knew something special about Newsweek or because I had a lack of faith in the brand, but because I used to work for IBT. Whenever IBT coowners Etienne Uzac (CEO) and Johnathan Davis (Chief Content Officer) are involved in something, the details never quite seem to add up.

I worked for the International Business Times, IBT’s flagship brand, for 7 months in 2012 as an automotive reporter. I had been working a job in a corporate immigration law firm and was desperate to get back into journalism after my brief dalliance with the legal profession. IBT was located on another floor of my building, and they were hiring a reporter to write about cars, something which I knew a bit about. I walked down, introduced myself, and a few days later I found myself with a new job.

Being young and naïve, I did not do much serious research on the company before taking the job. I did not know then, as I know now, that you should always check out the credentials of the top dogs. In the case of IBT and its cofounders and owners Uzac and Johnathan Davis, some serious research could have turned up some troubling information. I left IBT in Sept. 2012 once I began to suspect that the company may have been founded by Johnathan Davis and Uzac to support the efforts of a South Korean Evangelical Christian sect.

WHAT DO WE KNOW?

The history of IBT is murky. The company was originally incorporated in New York as “The Business Herald Inc.” on March 7, 2006, according to filings with the New York Department of State. The company has been renamed twice since its founding — first as “The International Business Times Inc.”, and then to its current name “IBT Media Inc.” on Feb. 21, 2013. The purchase of the beleaguered legacy brand Newsweek by IBT Media was announced on Aug. 3, 2013. Other titles published by the company include Latin Times and Medical Daily.

But they also have other, hidden publications. Another company, 33 Universal, publishes 19 “fast-growing, highly-related brands,” according to its website. It’s offices are located at 33 Whitehall St. in lower Manhattan, not in IBT Media’s main building at 7 Hanover Square. There is zero indication on the websites of either 33 Universal or IBT Media that the two companies are related. But they are.

During my time at IBT Media, the company “acquired” the 33 Universal publications as “vertical sites” which were to be dedicated to specific news beats like technology or autos. As part of this acquisition, Uzac and Davis sought to move reporters from the IBT newsroom to the new sites. We were to be paid by the article, not as salaried employees, and the exact business relationship between the companies was never clarified (The Guardian has done some good research on this point). I refused to move to the other company, although I was made the administrator for the official Facebook page of Autoworldnews.com, one of the sites.

THE BROCKLEHURST POSTS

IBT was a strange place to work. On a daily basis, the newsroom operated completely independently of the company’s management. I quickly fell into my role of writing about the automotive industry and reviewing cars. It was fun, the pay was decent, and I was working with a lot of other hungry, dedicated journalists. Yet it soon became apparent that the journalistic zeal did not extend to Uzac and Johnathan Davis. They were often less interested in quality than in quantity, and accuracy was of little importance to them, although the section editors tried their best to balance the management’s constant demand for more hits with the basic need for factual accuracy.

The first hint that something was amiss beyond the cynical philosophy of the owners went unnoticed in the world outside of the IBT newsroom. A Canadian journalist, Ann Brocklehurst, published a series of blog posts claiming that IBT was intimately connected to a small California-based evangelical Christian bible college, Olivet University, and its founder, David Jang. Jang, a former acolyte of the reverend Sun Myung Moon, was allegedly the force behind Olivet University and IBT.

This is actually not unheard of at all. The reverend Sun Myung Moon, an occasional mentor of Olivet University’s David Jang, made use of both The Washington Times and, for a time, UPI (United Press International) newswire to promote conservative causes in line with his religious philosophy.

UPI, founded in 1907, began life as a top-flight international newswire along the lines of the AP or Reuters, but by 2000 it had fallen on hard times and was absorbed by Moon’s News World Communications, which was ostensibly hoping to gain a bit of respectability from the respected brand.

Brocklehurst’ articles caused quite a splash, and the office was awash in talk of Jang and Olivet. Who was Jang really? Did Jang own IBT? Where had the money to start IBT actually come from? Come to think of it, who were the investors in the company?

And then the blog posts disappeared. There was no trace of them online (one post has been archived.) The posts were never seriously discussed with employees by the management, although an employee was told to cease sharing them internally. Brocklehurst’ accusations were eventually dismissed by the management as the ramblings of a crank.

I later learned that Brocklehurst had been silenced by a threatened lawsuit. As an independent journalist, she had cut a deal to avoid lengthy legal wrangling. While the details were murky, it seemed that she had agreed to take down her posts in exchange for the legal threats being dropped.

WHAT IS OLIVET?

What indeed. San Francisco-based Olivet University (not to be confused with Olivet Nazarene University), like IBT Media, claims to be many things. While IBT claims to be the “Global Business News Leader” (remind anyone of CNBC’s “World Business News Leader” slogan?) Olivet says it’s a place to “pursue a serious Christian education.”

Olivet University’s website says it came into existence in 1992 as a “small Bible college,” but the main theological seminary was not created until 2000. Olivet was founded by David Jang, who was involved with Sun Myung Moon’s movement for many years. In 1992, Jang’s followers allegedly began professing him to be something akin to the second coming of Christ. In an August 2012 article, religious news publication Christianity Today wrote that early adherents to Jang’s movement believed that he was not necessarily “Jesus Christ himself, but rather a new messianic figure that would complete Jesus’ earthly mission.” Tracy Davis, the president of Olivet, has denied this belief.

As recently as the 2008 school year, Jang was listed in the academic catalogue as the “Chancellor” of the university. In late December 2012, a news item from the university stated that Jang delivered a benediction at the inauguration of Tracy Davis (IBT coowner Johnathan Davis’ wife) as President of Olivet University. The press release gave Jang’s current title as “International President” of the school.

SO HOW ARE JOHNATHAN DAVIS AND UZAC CONNECTED TO OLIVET? WHO CARES?

The fallout from the Brocklehurst articles was minor. Most people in the IBT newsroom either didn’t care (“they pay me and let me write what I want”) or took the explanation that Brocklehurst was mentally ill at face value, no questions asked. With the journalism industry the way it is today, there was little incentive for fresh-faced J-school graduates or late-career editors to look too deeply into the company’s background.

Yet I couldn’t drop the idea that IBT was related to Olivet and David Jang’s religious movement. Something didn’t add up. Was it a front? Was it a scam? Perhaps a tax dodge? Or just a simple miscommunication? I hoped there was nothing backing-up the blog posts. While I tried to ignore Brocklehurst, the weird addition of the 33 Universal publications and the muddy history surrounding the company’s founding left me unsatisfied.

The fact that David Jang founded Olivet University and served as its “International President” isn’t in question. Neither is the fact that Johnathan Davis’ wife, Tracy Davis, is the president of the school. By themselves, neither of these facts amounts to anything unethical or suspect. But IBT’s connections to Olivet don’t stop with Tracy Davis.

The university’s 2008-2009 student handbook lists Johnathan Davis as the “Program Director” for the Olivet College of Journalism. In a December 2007 press release from the university, Davis is quoted describing the journalism courses for the spring 2008 semester. The program will help “students build their journalism skills in preparation for careers in Christian media.”

According to the school’s 2008-2009 catalogue, the stated objectives of the journalism program included proper use of style, research and technology education, how to “act professionally in the practice of journalism,” reflecting “critically on the relationship between mass media and Christian mission,” and to “Benefit ministry areas with messages that seek to improve the lives of the audiences they reach by applying Gospel values.”

In other words, a primary goal of the journalism program directed by Davis seems to have been to teach students to propagate the sect’s religious beliefs and values through the media.

The same student handbook states that students must graduate within a “six-year period,” unless they receive special permission to extend their attendance to “eight years from the initial date of enrollment.”

To graduate, all Olivet University students must complete the “6 semester credit Ministry Practice component,” according to the school’s 2008-2009 Catalog, plus another three credits of “Honors Practice Practicum” if they want to graduate with honors.

The “Ministry Practice Program” is described in the student handbook as a way to provide “Olivet students with a broad range of challenging field-based experiential learning and ministry opportunities,” which amount to participating in internships. “The program is also designed to facilitate personal spiritual growth.” Graduation requires six credits of Ministry Practice, so in practice students had to work either an hour a week for three semesters (45 weeks) or three hours a week for one semester (15 weeks), minimum. If they wish to receive “Honors” for their BA, they had to complete an additional three credits.

UPDATE (April 3, 2014): I now have a copy Olivet University’s 2008-2009 Ministry Practice Handbook, which details the internship program. According to the handbook, undergraduate graduation requirements include “At least 15 hours per week of internship work for final two semesters of degree program. Each semester is worth 3 credits.” To graduate with honors, students must complete “At least 22 hours per week of ministry practicum work summer after senior year culminating in a senior portfolio of published material.” So, to recap, students were required to work for a minimum of 225 hours per semester for two semesters if they wanted to graduate, according to the handbook.

According to handbook, “Each College of Olivet University has established strong lines of communication, trust, and support within the University’s Christian ministry affiliates”. Objectives of these internships included religious goals like “Cultivate a spirit of service to Jesus Christ, His Church and His people” as well as standard professional goals like “Supplement classroom instruction with fieldwork under experienced faculty and staff mentors.”

Finally, the handbook also included a “Ministry Practice Program Approval Form” which was given to students:

As can be seen, nowhere in the form is the word “internship” used, although it does include a field for “Job Description.”

Students were only allowed to intern “with an approved Olivet ministry affiliate,” according to the catalogue. Approved “ministry affiliates” are listed under the “Ministry Practice Program” in the handbook. The only news-media companies where journalism students were authorized to work were IBTimes, The Christian Post, Gospel Herald and Christian Today, and the “Program Director” for the journalism “Ministry Practice Program” for all of these companies was Johnathan Davis.

Realistically, however, these “internships” seemed to resemble normal jobs. According to Mother Jones:

“Olivet students in the United States on international student visas say they worked for IBT and other Community media entities, sometimes for as little as $125 a week. Both Olivet and IBT described these positions as internships, and said no-one was allowed to work illegally. Several students I spoke with say they were not told they were interns, and documents from Olivet and the businesses list students as reporters, editors, and salespeople.”

The meat of the issue is that at the same time Johnathan Davis was overseeing the development of IBT, he was the director of an academic program that funneled poorly-paid interns to his company. In essence, to graduate in the journalism program from Olivet University, students were required to intern at companies that supported the mission of the school.

A former IBT employee confirmed in Aug. 2013 that there were between six and eight interns at the company from Olivet University. Many of the interns were South Korean students, and did not work in the newsroom. Instead, they were employed in web-design and development tasks. “Most were working more than 20 hours,” per week, the source stated, and during the development of a new Content Management System (CMS) for the company during a period of several months in mid-2012, “they worked 12 hour days including Saturdays” with minimal supervision from one full employee of the company. These interns, who worked on key design tasks for the company were unpaid and all lived together, according to the source.

Due to the vital technical nature of work that the “interns” from Olivet University were doing for IBT, once their immigration status as students ran out, “then the company sponsored them to stay in the country because they were no longer students,” the source said.

At the same time, the school’s entire philosophy of education and “spiritual” foundation appear to have fostered an environment where students, especially international students, were left with little recourse or ability to object to their treatment. Graduation from the university was also predicated on attending “chapel” at least 27 times (out of 30 convocations) each semester, according to the catalogue. Remote students like the interns were allowed to watch a webcast of the services. Absences from attending chapel were only allowed “due to extended illness, referring to sickness or injury from which a student is either hospitalized or unable to attend class for a week,” the death of a family member, or jury duty. “Absences for any other reason will not be excused,” according to the academic catalogue.

A student identified as Dorcas from Malaysia on the Olivet University recruitment website described her experience studying journalism and religion at the school:

“Study in OCJ [Olivet College of Journalism] is a process through which the old self is being torn down and new self is being built up. I feel so small before the professors no matter in professional knowledge or in serious attitude towards the ministry and have learnt a lot from them.
Besides, language and cultural communication are fresh to me. Through OU study, I realize that no matter how one’s past is glorious, he will reach his limits here. Therefore coming to OU is a wonderful opportunity to cast away the old thinking and learn to rely on God with the whole heart to see one’s identity and mission clearly.
I really want to give thanks to God for opening my mind towards journalism and media ministry, establishing my recognition of media influence and teaching me to proclaim the truth through media.”

Dorcas described her experience being recruited to the school as well. It was rushed, and she had just two weeks to purchase a plane ticket and secure a visa. Although supported by her father, the rest of her family objected to her attending the school. But they were soon swayed by prayer. Dorcas wrote that “At first, I had financial worries caused by distrust in God, however, by the support of my relatives, friends and congregants in my father’s church, I resolved the financial problem.”

Dorcas also described her visa interview:

“During the visa interview, I felt like small David standing before Giant Goliath. A voice told me that the victory of the war was decided by the Lord and peace came on me instantly. It was not easy for me to get the American visa because Malaysia is thought to be a Muslim country and American visa officers are very strict with Malaysians going to U.S. However, I got the American visa by the grace of God.”

The philosophy of the school appears to treat federal law somewhat lackadaisically. The “Community Life Agreement” in the catalogue states that “Disciplinary action will result when student conduct is such that the university community is adversely affected.” Students are advised to obey federal, state and local laws “except in those instances where obedience to the state would violate a Biblically-informed conscience.” It seems convenient that violations of a “Biblically-informed conscience” are almost surely adjudicated by the school’s spiritual leaders.

Uzac, cofounder and CEO of IBT, is just as intimately connected to Olivet as Johnathan Davis. Uzac is listed as “Treasurer,” on Olivet University’s publicly available 990 filings for tax exempt status for 2009, 2010 and 2011 (the three years available online), covering a period of time up to June 2012, making him an “individual trustee or director” and an “officer” of the school. As such, like Tracy Davis and Johnathan Davis, Etienne Uzac is deeply involved in the operations of the university.

Nevertheless, intimate connections between the founders of a company and a university run by an evangelical religious group aren’t a problem in and of themselves, however distasteful this may seem. In an apparent bid for respectability, IBT purchased Newsweek in August of last year, and so far Editor-in-Chief Jim Impocco says there has been complete editorial independence. When I worked at IBT, this was largely true, except for the push to generate hits, regardless of methods or accuracy. Tellingly, the only story I was told not to pursue was an article about investments by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church in an automotive company.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve had less interference than any other place I’ve worked,” Impocco recently told The New York Times. “We’ve written more stories on atheism than anything religious.”

I believe Impocco’s words, and it’s because IBT and now Newsweek were never intended to be philosophical mouthpieces. Rather, they may have been meant to operate as fronts to fund the US operations of Olivet University and David Jang. The appearance of some level of journalistic integrity works to the advantage of Uzac and Johnathan Davis — after all, how many journalists seriously investigate newspapers?

CEASE AND DESIST

I left IBT in September 2012 to pursue an MA at New York University. I had originally intended to continue working part-time writing about cars, but the weight of the evidence pointing towards a deep connection between IBT, David Jang and Olivet made me loath to continue and embarrassed of the work I had been doing for the past seven months. I felt and still feel that Davis’ and Uzac’s activities were deeply unethical. When I left the company, I hadn’t decided if I was going to write about IBT and Olivet, but during the course of the following year I continued my research into the company during free moments.

When the Newsweek acquisition happened, I began to pursue the story in earnest. After reaching out to a score of editors, I finally made contact with an editor at a major financial news magazine, who agreed to casually look into the story with me. We felt we were close to having the whole story, but there were still some missing pieces, and I began working my sources inside the company. I also reached out to Olivet University for comment.

Olivet’s PR office refused to put me on the phone with anyone and eventually requested questions in writing. Here’s a transcript of the email I sent them on Aug. 23:

“Hi Thomas,
Thanks for the follow-up. I’ve got some questions written up below. Thanks again!
Best,
Ben
1) Can you provide us with copies of your most recent student handbook and Ministry Practice Handbook?
2) Please describe the relationship between Olivet University and IBT since the company’s foundation in 2006.
3) What was Johnathan Davis’ role at the school?
4) How is Etienne Uzac connected to the school? What is his current role, and has he ever served as an officer of the university?
5) Your course catalogue states that one purpose of the journalism program is to teach students how to “apply Gospel values” to the news. What are Gospel values and how should they be incorporated into the news?
6) How do you define “ministry” with respect to internships?
7) What is the Ministry Practice Program and how does it work?
8) How long must students intern through the Ministry Practice Program?
9) What companies are students in the Ministry Practice Program authorized to intern at?
10) Were Olivet University students interning at IBT through the ministry practice program paid? What were their duties at the company?
11) What are the demographics of Olivet University’s student body? How many students are there, and where do they come from?”

I got a strange reply from Olivet’s flack, Thomas:

“Thanks Ben.
Before I forward these questions along, I did a quick search of your name and found some articles written by a Ben Reeves, but at IBT not [the magazine]. Are you the same person? Let me know.
Best Regards,
Thomas”

What was weird about this is that I had signed all of my emails with Olivet “Ben Reeves,” but all of my articles on IBT had been published under the byline of “Benjamin Reeves.” It seemed improbable, at best, that Thomas had stumbled across this by chance. I took this as being proof that Olivet and IBT were in communication with each other. Either way, I told him that yes I was the same person, and then I waited for an answer to my questions.

I emailed Thomas several more times. I waited. No reply. Then on Aug. 28 I got a reply to my query, but not from Thomas. This is what I got instead:

“Dear Mr. Reeves:
This firm serves as litigation counsel to Olivet University (“Olivet”). It has come to our attention that you intend to publish a news article about a supposed connection between Olivet University and International Business Times (“IBT”). It has further come to our attention that your news article will include false and defamatory statements about Olivet and false and defamatory statements about the supposed connection between Olivet and IBT, including insinuations that Olivet has used IBT for improper purposes and/or to further its own agenda. Any such false statements would be unlawful and would cause immediate and irreparable harm to Olivet.”

I’d like to note a couple of things about this. First off, Olivet was threatening to sue a reporter for simply asking basic questions like “how many students go to your school.” The response was completely out of proportion to what I asked.

Secondly, and more importantly, Olivet’s law firm was saying that Olivet had never used IBT “to further its own agenda.” It turns out, of course, that IBT may have been created specifically to support Olivet (for those out there in doubt, statements that are factually true cannot be defamatory).

The letter continued:

“Moreover, I have been informed that you are a former employee of IBT. In such a capacity, you gained direct knowledge about IBT along with an awareness of the falsity of any supposed relationship between IBT and Olivet. Such circumstances will prove relevant to your motivations if you publish any false and defamatory statements about IBT and or Olivet.”

I took the reference of my former employment’s “relevance” to be a threat.

The letter concluded by stating that Olivet wished that the matter be resolved “amicably,” signed, “Sincerely, Jeffrey M. Rosenfeld”.

THE MULTIMILLION DOLLAR PLAN FOR IBT

At the time I received the cease and desist letter, I wasn’t sure I could prove anything beyond a nexus of professional and personal relationships between Olivet and IBT. The letter was obviously an empty scare tactic, but I knew I needed more. And then I got it.

I had spent months developing sources within IBT, beginning with people I knew personally from my time there, and then branching out to acquaintances and former employees. An image of the relationship began to emerge which indicated deep, mutual support between IBT and Olivet.

A source stated in an early August 2013 email that s/he “did not realize that those free services from Olivet had ended or when they ended. In fact, we had so many glitches with our computer system in July, knocking out the cms at critical times, that I thought to myself, ‘They need to get their own servers instead of depending on Olivet.’” The source cautioned that s/he had not been told in the past month whether IBT was using Olivet resources.

Another source within the company confirmed that Davis indicated in a Dec. 2012 meeting that web-hosting or design services had been provided to IBT by Olivet, for free as a “favor.” According to the source: “In that meeting, the two said that Olivet University, where Davis’ wife was the dean, had provided Web-hosting for the company since the beginning, with the implication that it was provided free of charge as a ‘favor’ to Uzac and Davis, or that they were so scrappy, they took server space wherever they could snag it from.”

That Olivet may have provided free web-hosting services to a company owned by the treasurer of the board of trustees and the husband of the school’s president seemed bad enough. But then I learned that IBT had apparently been intended to financially support the school and Jang’s mission.

In Sept. 2013 I received a message from a former IBT employee. The source said to set-up a Dropbox account because s/he had some files s/he wanted to share with me. What I found contained within those files would convince me once and for all of the deeply unethical relationship between Olivet and IBT.

I didn’t know what I was going to get from my source. I had been inquiring about interns at IBT, and I was expecting something related to that topic. Instead, my source sent me hundreds of archived emails, some talking about interns, some including mundane information (such as emails I sent during my time at the company inquiring about press credentials and parking arrangements), and some containing evidence of the relationship between IBT and Olivet. The inclusion of my emails in the archives convinced me that they were genuine and had not been tampered with.

Within those emails was a Jan. 14, 2009 message sent by Olivet University to Johnathan Davis at his Olivetu.us and ibtimes.com email addresses. This is what that email (subject line “Dear US leaders”) included:

The email was an exhortation from Olivet University to “coordinate and encourage” giving to the school from within the IBT organization. The money was needed because Olivet University bounced a check for the rent. Included on the list of donors is Johnathan Davis.

Attached to the email was a chat record. A user, “vereanthony,” probably Olivet’s Chief Finance Officer at the time, “Anthony,” began the conversation:

“vereanthony
hello everyone 9:41
lets get started, I think others will enter later
I’ll be brief
everyone by now probably knows about the situation of OU
I reported earlier last week that we need to gather $100,000 total 9:42
and at the end of the week we asked all leaders to pitch in $100 each 9:43
the situation is very serious due to our previous records, we are facing payments that can no longer be delayed 9:44
total what we have gathered is about 36,000 the from the start of last week until now 9:45
there is still 64,000 left
however, beyond a general report on the situation, there is something I want to bring out
from the money gathered, over 20,000 came from KR from individual member donations and personal loans 9:46
I told everyone previously that KR is carrying a big burden right now for missions in Asia 9:47
they are sending money to China, to Japan, and also other mission areas
however when OU is dire, they still gathered the donations individually and took out loans to send here 9:48
the currency is going back up again
the exchange rate”

A few lines down, vereanthony continued to explain the situation:

“if we keep looking at our own issues, then there is no end
so we are splitting the burden on to everyone 9:52
the reason I asked ministry and company representatives to come is to let you know what is happening now 9:53
and I wish each ministry and company can work with your members to donate
in KR, they split everything by ministry and from there they gathered donations like that 9:54
right now this is a community matter, we can’t just leave it be
KR sent over $20,000, they have done the best they can
they will no longer be able to send anymore 9:55
there is no where we can expect help other than from ourselves
still what remains are unpaid faculty salaries, Treasure Island problem, and OU rent issue 9:56
all those checks went out today
but we don’t have $64,000 to cover
so something will bounce
at this point, the most likely that will be sacrificed is OU rent 9:57
we will let it bounce and delay it for about a week”

Then vereanthony concludes his update:

“so those two we need to find resolution first
that leaves at least $24,000 we need to gather by toay
today
and $40,000 + late fee within the week 10:00
I wish all ministry and company representatives can relay this to your members, and I wish everyone can take a lead in gathering the donations
right now PD placed all the focus on IBT and Veremedia to make big money, it does not happen overnight, so we should endure at least until March 10:01
however, progress are promising and by March we should be freed from financial issues
end of March 10:02
then, that is all that I have to report
are there any questions or comments at this time?”

And there is a reply:

“[ibt]Johnathan
no questions 10:03”

It can reasonably be assumed that “[ibt] Johnathan” is Johnathan Davis. The “PD” referred to in the chat is mostly likely Olivet University’s “Planning Document,” which is referenced as such in an Oct. 29, 2007 email (the recent Mother Jones article indicates PD refers to “Pastor David.” The acronym could have reasonably been used interchangeably to indicate both the Planning Document and Jang). Essentially, Johnathan Davis and the Olivet representatives were discussing the school’s desperate lack of money to pay rent. Beyond that, however, the chat record indicates that the university’s Planning Document and/or Jang put the responsibility for Olivet’s financial health on IBT and another company, Veremedia, which also had an internship program with the school, according to the handbook (Mother Jones discusses Veremedia at length).

The chat record and email leave little doubt that IBT was intended to finance the operations of Olivet University.

Johnathan Davis recently told The New York Times that IBT, with 240 employees, had revenue of $21 million last year and a profit of $500,000.

LAND DEAL ON THE HUDSON

Olivet University was in dire straits financially at the beginning of 2009, unable to pay its rent and forced to tap into an international network of religious donors and companies. The school’s 2009 990 lists revenue for the previous year, fiscal 2008, at $1,914,756, including $809,830 in contributions and grants.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, Olivet’s overall revenue fell a bit to $1,685,012, but contributions rose to $842,697. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010, however, Olivet’s revue and donations shot through the roof. Olivet had revenue of $12,964,444 and contributions of $7,938,061 from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, according to the school’s 2011 filing. Revenue and contributions were similar from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, the most recent data available online (the tax filings can be viewed here, here, and here).

Somehow, Olivet University went from total revenue just shy of $2 million in 2008-2009 and bouncing checks in 2009 to almost $13 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. From 2009 when the school was bouncing checks to make rent to 2011, Olivet University’s revenue rose 769 percent. That’s big money.

In summer 2013, Olivet University completed the $20 million purchase of the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center, a collection of 80 buildings and 503 acres of land in Wingdale, NY. The university plans to use the Hudson River valley site to open a new campus near New York City.

The school’s administrators told The New York Times that they purchased the land using the donations of alumni and friends.

POOR NEWSWEEK

So. Is IBT currently funneling money to Olivet University to support its national expansion? Only Johnathan and Tracy Davis, Uzac and the leaders of Olivet know one way or another. What we do know is that IBT may have been intended to serve that purpose. We also know that Olivet University has experienced massive financial growth in recent years.

Did Olivet University provide web-design, web-hosting, technical services and free labor to IBT? Again, only Johnathan and Tracy Davis, Uzac and the leadership of Olivet know this. Nevertheless, there are employees and former employees of IBT who firmly believe that this occurred.

Why did Uzac and Johnathan Davis buy Newsweek? While we can’t peer into the minds of Johnathan Davis, Uzac and their compatriots, we can make some educated guesses. IBT has failed to make a positive impression on the media landscape — it’s reporting has been widely lampooned for some time. While the website drives a vast quantity of web traffic, it seems to be generally low value readers who are attracted to sensationalism and celebrity gossip. Most likely Uzac and Davis purchased Newsweek in a bid to use its history to bolster the reputation of their company. By buying Newsweek, they perhaps hoped to purchase a bit of cachet.

But as the recent Newsweek Bitcoin cover story debacle shows: dogmatic fools and their money are soon parted.


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