Anthony Melchiorre, the hedge fund manager who owns the controlling interest in Enquirer parent company AMI, has reportedly grown tired of the publication’s red ink and reporting tactics. The Enquirer has also been at the center of a maelstrom, after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the publication of “extortion and blackmail” in February, in relation to the threatened publication of a private photograph of the billionaire’s bulge. (AMI has denied wrongdoing.)
The proposed sale of the Enquirer threatens to unwind an informal protection racket that publisher David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, ran for his longtime friend Trump, as detailed in a 2018 Non-Prosecution Agreement with the Department of Justice.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, AMI worked “in concert” with the Trump campaign to pay Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 “to ensure that a woman did not publicize damaging allegations” about Trump – in an attempt to “influence that election.” As detailed in the document, the hush money payment followed an offer by Pecker “to help deal with negative stories about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women” by “assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so that they could be purchased and their publication avoided.” (AMI’s agreement with the feds included aiding in the investigation of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and AMI’s commitment to “prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws.”)
According to the Associated Press, Pecker used to keep a safe full of “catch-and-kill” stories and documents in the National Enquirer office. Are such invaluable assets included in the sale offer to new owners?
AMI did not respond to a request for comment. Pecker has said only that AMI, which is deeply in debt, is seeking to exit the tabloid business (AMI also owns the Globe and National Examiner) to focus on its glossy magazines like US and an events business. In a statement, Pecker said, “the tabloids can be best exploited by a different ownership.”
The prospect of Trump’s darkest secrets changing hands is more tantalizing on news, reported by the New York Times, that potential purchasers include a man with connections to Bill Clinton. Ron Burkle, a billionaire investor and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, was described by the Times to be “in talks” to buy the tabloid.
Burkle, who built his fortune buying distressed supermarket chains, took on Clinton as a business partner after the 43rd president left the White House. His past as a top Democratic donor suggests he might bring a very different political orientation to the Enquirer, although Burkle has also been chummy with Trump, who called him “a friend of mine” and once joked that he’d like Burkle’s help re-negotiating NAFTA.
On Thursday, a spokesperson at Burkle’s investment firm muddied the waters, denying interest in purchasing the paper. “I can confirm we are not in talks to buy the Enquirer,” Frank Quintero told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Perhaps lofting Burkle’s name was a trial balloon by AMI — designed to entice more conservative suitors to make their bids. Regardless, whoever ends up buying the tabloid could find themselves in possession of a motherload of kompromat on the president, just in time for the 2020 election.
How do you spell “National Enquirer” in Cyrillic?