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Author: Tan KW   |   Latest post: Sat, 16 Feb 2019, 10:03 PM

 

Bezos’s bombshell puts enquirer allegiances back in spotlight

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LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK/MANHATTAN (Feb 8): Jeff Bezos’s clash with the National Enquirer, including a fight to prevent compromising photos from being published, is putting the supermarket tabloid and its financial backers back under scrutiny.
 
Bezos, Amazon.com Inc.’s chief executive officer, accused National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc of seeking to blackmail him with texts and photos, including a “below the belt selfie”. The tech magnate also said that AMI’s ties to President Donald Trump suggest that the publisher has political motivations. David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, is an old friend of the president, who has frequently criticized Bezos and his Washington Post newspaper.
 
AMI’s financial backer, hedge fund manager Anthony Melchiorre, also has rubbed shoulders with the president, including a White House dinner in July 2017. Billionaire hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman helped finance the publisher as well. He said last year that executives at Melchiorre’s firm, Chatham Asset Management, introduced him to the investment.
 
Representatives for Chatham, Cooperman, AMI and the White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
 
According to messages shared by Bezos in a blog post, AMI offered to not publish the material if he agreed to back off an investigation of the newspaper company. Bezos included email exchanges in his post, including descriptions of the photos in question.
 
Divorce News
 
Last month, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced that they were divorcing. Later that day, the Enquirer reported that Bezos had been having a relationship with another woman. In the blog, Bezos said that the tabloid had published “intimate text messages from me.”
 
“I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer,” Bezos said.
 
“Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here,” he said. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
 
The episode brings fresh light to a web of alliances surrounding AMI. The company is cooperating with federal prosecutors looking into its efforts to help the Trump campaign before the 2016 presidential election by killing stories “about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women.” That included a US$150,000 payment by AMI to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal about her alleged affair with Trump.
 
‘Catch and Kill’
 
The McDougal payment was part of an agreement by Pecker to buy the rights to damaging stories about Trump and then not publish them -- a practice known as “catch and kill.”
 
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to aiding the payment to McDougal and other crimes, for which he’ll begin serving a three-year federal prison sentence next month.
 
Chatham Asset Management is the main money behind AMI. Years before Trump ascended to the White House, Melchiorre threw a financial lifeline to Pecker’s company and ended up with about an 80 percent stake.
 
But as it faced more turbulence last year, AMI sought to raise more money. And Pecker became more isolated. He resigned from the board of a Canadian newspaper company that has also been backed by Melchiorre’s hedge fund.
 
Chatham said last year that it had been an investor in AMI since 2010 and had “no involvement in the editorial process or the day-to-day business decisions of the company.”
 
 
 - Bloomberg
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