Los Angeles-based billionaire Ronald W. Burkle is denying a Thursday report in the New York Times that he’s in talks to buy the troubled National Enquirer from American Media.
“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, also saying that no reporter from the Times had called prior to publication.
A rep for AMI did not respond to a request for comment from TheWrap; a Times spokesperson wrote: “As our story notes, New York Times reporters reached out to a representative for Yucaipa Companies and did not hear back before publication. Our reporters have followed up since publication as well. We will update the story with their comment if and when they respond.”
Burkle, a longtime Democratic donor with close professional ties with former President Bill Clinton, has deep connections in Hollywood and a history of purchasing distressed companies. The Times cited two unnamed individuals familiar with the talks, but did not offer many details on the terms.
The Enquirer, long one of the flashiest properties of American Media, has come under legal and media scrutiny in recent months for its role in promoting Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. On Wednesday, AMI President and CEO David J. Pecker announced the company was looking to unload the tabloid, which has seen a decline in circulation and which the Times reported has lost money in recent years.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that pressure for the sale was being placed on Pecker by Anthony Melchiorre, the chairman of Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund that controls 80% of AMI. Chatham was “disgusted” by the Enquirer’s reporting tactics following, according to the paper, whose owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has been in a public and legal spat with AMI over the Enquirer’s reporting of his affair with TV personality Lauren Sanchez, former host of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
AMI has struggled to refinance $400 million in debt, the Post reported. The Enquirer’s sales have dropped from an average of 516,000 copies to 218,000 in December 2018, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Pecker is a longtime personal friend of Donald Trump and the Enquirer has played an active role in mitigating a number of claims from women who say they have had extramarital affairs with him. The company most notably paid model Karen McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her claim of an affair with Trump in order to bury it. The practice, known as “catch and kill” is frequently used by AMI to capture dirt on celebrities — potentially for use later.