April 12, 2019
The National Enquirer—the supermarket tabloid that in February allegedly extorted Jeff Bezos about his extramarital activities and, during the 2016 campaign, “exposed” then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s “secret health crisis”—is up for sale, according to an April 10 report by The New York Times.
Owned by American Media and helmed by David Pecker—a longtime pal of Donald Trump’s who used the scandal sheet to run a smear campaign against Clinton during the 2016 elections—the Enquirer is likely to have a buyer in a matter of days, the Times said.
The most likely prospect is rumored to be billionaire investor Ronald W. Burkle, a supermarket magnate with ties to President Bill Clinton, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. Such a move would turn the political tables on President Trump.
In addition to his offensive strikes against Amazon CEO Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post, one of the president’s “fake media foes”) and Hillary Clinton; Pecker is said to have sealed a deal to buy a story from Karen McDougal—a Playboy model who said she had an affair with the president.
The company acquired McDougal’s story for $150,000 and never published it, following a practice known in the tabloid business as “catch-and-kill.” Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York gave Mr. Pecker an immunity deal during an investigation of the arrangement.
Prosecutors identified the $150,000 payment to McDougal as a political contribution made in violation of campaign finance law, the Times reported. Under a non-prosecution deal, American Media affirmed that it had made the payment to “influence the election.”
That agreement, signed in September, stipulated that American Media “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years, and that if it did, the company “shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge.”
The deal has put the company in a difficult position, the Times said—pointing out that federal prosecutors now have have started investigating the blackmail claims by Bezos.
Indeed, the principal owner of American Media, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, led by Anthony Melchiorre, pushed Pecker to sell the tabloid after it found itself in the cross hairs of the federal investigation and at the receiving end of Bezos’ wrath.
Melchiorre no longer saw an upside in being associated with The Enquirer, the people familiar with the matter said, and the tabloid’s financial losses provided further motivation for a sale.
Research contact: @nytimes