The owner of the National Enquirer is hoping to sell off the scandal-hungry tabloid, which has admitted to paying hush money to help President Trump get elected and been accused of attempting to blackmail Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The National Enquirer, which has been beset by scandals of its own making in the past year, is on the block, along with American Media’s other tabloid magazines.
American Media CEO David Pecker confirmed the plan after the Washington Post reported that the company has come under “intense pressure” to part ways with the Enquirer.
The pressure has come from the company’s board of directors and from its controlling shareholder Chatham Asset Management.
According to the newspaper, Chatham’s managing partner Anthony Melchiorre was concerned about both “the financial difficulties of the tabloid business” and “the Enquirer’s tactics.”
American Media Inc (AMI) said in a statement it is looking at ‘strategic options’ for the weekly, as well as for the Globe and the National Examiner brands.
‘We have been keenly focused on leveraging the popularity of our celebrity glossy, teen and active lifestyle brands while developing new and robust platforms including broadcast and audio programming, and a live events business, that now deliver significant revenue streams,’ said American Media President and CEO David Pecker.
Pecker, a close fried of Trump and the chief executive and chairman of AMI, was granted immunity by prosecutors looking at a hush money scandal involving a Playboy model who had an alleged affair with Trump.
Trump once tweeted that Pecker should run Time magazine; he also said that the Enquirer deserved to win the Pulitzer Prize.
The pro-Trump gossip magazine also kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the arrangement told The Associated Press.
The Trump records were stored alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities’ catch-and-kill deals, in which exclusive rights to people’s stories were bought with no intention of publishing to keep them out of the news.
By keeping celebrities’ embarrassing secrets, the company was able to ingratiate itself with them and ask for favors in return.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are still looking into whether American Media Inc. violated its non-prosecution agreement as a result of conduct alleged by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
The non-prosecution agreement, signed in September 2018, describes AMI’s role in a payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump prior to his presidential candidacy.
Bezos later wrote a blog post accusing AMI of trying to blackmail him by threatening to publish explicit photos of the billionaire if he didn’t publicly state that he had no basis for suggesting that the Enquirer’s exposé was politically motivated.
The Bezos story helped seal the Enquirer’s fate, said one person briefed on his thinking.
“The Trump thing was an issue, and Melchiorre was really disgusted by the Bezos reporting,” the person said.
The Bezos reporting also threatened to renew legal scrutiny on the company.
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for arranging a hush-money payment to McDougal, and AMI agreed to cooperate with prosecutors rather than face similar charges for helping to facilitate the payment.
Bezos published a post yesterday in which he quoted e-mails and correspondence that he said showed that AMI threatened to publish intimate photos of Bezos and his girlfriend if he did not stop investigating how AMI had obtained them.
The tangled web of allegations surrounding the Bezos story reaches into the Trump administration as well.
De Becker alleged that the Enquirer “became an enforcement arm of the Trump presidential campaign and presidency” by, for example, paying McDougal and then not publishing her story.
One of the people familiar with the negotiations to sell the Enquirer said that AMI’s largest investors had become intensely uncomfortable with their investment in a tabloid that was involved in efforts to support the president’s administration and reelection bid.
“The president is buddies with Pecker and tries to help him, and Pecker does what he can to help the president,” the person said. “It can be embarrassing.”
Attribution:The Washington Post