RPT-Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson revealed as mystery buyer of Nevada newspaper

(Repeats for wider distribution)

NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Putting to end a week-long guessing game that has obsessed media watchers and political pundits alike, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., was unmasked Wednesday as the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, according to Fortune magazine, which cited “multiple sources familiar with the situation.”

Adelson, the top Republican donor in the 2012 presidential election, went to great lengths to remain unknown, shielding the $140 million purchase in a newly-formed, Delaware-based shell company with anonymous owners.

The paper, Nevada’s largest, has long been regarded as possessing outsize political influence in a swing state.

Adelson, who hosted Tuesday night’s GOP presidential debate at his Venetian Hotel, is widely expected to be the top Republican donor in the 2016 election.

Most of the Republican candidates have assiduously courted his approval, traveling to Las Vegas to meet with the 81-year-old gambling magnate, who Forbes magazine says is the 15th richest man in America. Adelson is known for his ardent support of Israel and his desire to ban online gaming.

Fortune’s disclosure comes after media watchdogs piled on in the past week, calling for the new owner to reveal himself in accordance with Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics, which stresses the need for those engaged in journalism to be accountable and transparent.

Not disclosing ownership, critics said, raised questions about how journalists can report conflicts of interest if they do not know who pays their salaries.

Adelson’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting By Michelle Conlin; Editing by Bernard Orr