Paul Pope, son of National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope Jr., says he will drop plans to purchase the tabloid from its current owner, American Media Inc., adding that it was his belief that the Enquirer was not salvageable.
“When I stepped back and did the 50,000 foot-view and I really analyzed this, I don’t think there is any way — even if they gave the paper away — I don’t think it can be resurrected,” Pope told TheWrap. “All businesses are cyclical and sadly this is the end of the cycle. It’s time to kiss it goodbye.”
Pope, a Florida-based author and philanthropist, said his initial urge to buy back the magazine had been a “knee-jerk” response on behalf of his family legacy, before he ultimately concluded that declining circulation and lack of a digital strategy made the prospect unworkable.
“The online version is nothing, the subscription is nothing. There is just nothing left,” he said. “You would need an infusion of capital of 60 plus million and that’s just a start.”
Generoso Pope Jr.’s company sold the Enquirer and its even more infamous sister tabloid, The Weekly World News, in 1989 for $412.5 million in an all cash deal to Macfadden Holdings Inc.
A rep for the National Enquirer did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
The news of Pope dropping out was first reported by the New York Post late Tuesday evening which said the move now cleared the field for Hudson News chief James Cohen who is said to be aggressively pursuing the purchase.
Reps for Cohen at Hudson News did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment on the issue.
Another potential buyer, billionaire investor Ron Burkle, swatted down rumors that he had designs on the tabloid telling TheWrap that a New York Times report documenting his interest was wrong.
“We are not interested in, looking at and have not approached AMI about buying the National Enquirer,” a spokesperson for Burkle and his Yucaipa Companies investment firm told TheWrap last week.
AMI boss David Pecker has been looking to unload the Enquirer after facing pressure from his principal investor Anthony Melchiorre and his hedge fund Chatham Asset Management. Reports emerged last week saying the financier was increasingly “disgusted” by the Enquirer’s reporting tactics. The tabloid has been accused by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos of attempting to extort him with salacious images and text messages between him and his lover Lauren Sanchez.
The reveal from Bezos in a public Medium post potentially opens the Enquirer to an unappetizing legal fight with the world’s richest man.
The Enquirer is also facing legal scrutiny from federal prosecutors over the tabloid’s role in promoting Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The company is known to have made at least one payment to a woman claiming an extramarital affair with Trump (which he has denied) buying up the rights to the story in order to prevent it from running — a tabloid move known as “catch and kill.”
Though AMI chief David Pecker was ultimately granted immunity in the larger legal issues surrounding the president and his top lieutenants, prosecutors are currently weighing whether the Enquirer’s dealing with Bezos are potential grounds for revoking that immunity, the Wall Street journal reported in February.