Jared Kushner appears to be ready to pick up sticks and move to Washington, D.C., with his wife Ivanka Trump to become an adviser (either officially or unofficially) to his father-in-law, President-elect Donald Trump, and there’s at least one piece of Manhattan he wants to shed before he goes: The New York Observer. According to people familiar with the matter, Kushner has been quietly shopping the storied paper to potential buyers.
A potential suitor for the media property had been rumored to be National Enquirer-parent company American Media Inc. AMI declined to comment, however, sources close to the firm expressed skepticism that the company is a potential buyer.
The Observer Media chairman and chief executive Joseph Meyer (who, notably, is also Kushner’s brother-in-law) denied speculation the property is for sale, saying: “As one of the fastest-growing businesses in all of digital media, we are constantly being approached by potential investors and partners.”
Insiders surmised that Kushner wants to unload the Observer, which recently ceased printing its salmon-pink weekly edition, so that he can focus on his budding political career. Kushner bought the paper in 2006 for $10 million with dreams of becoming a media mogul. He began slowly changing its mission, focusing it more on digital stories and volume, and less on its trademark New York-centric storytelling, which was steeped in media, arts, culture and real estate reporting under longtime editor in chief, the late Peter Kaplan, who left the paper in 2009 (and later joined WWD parent Fairchild Media) over disagreements about deep cuts in the editorial staff.
It could not be determined how much Kushner is looking to get for the now digital-only property.
One reason AMI has been floated as a possibility is because throughout the presidential campaign, the National Enquirer was a pit bull for Trump, publishing several stories that were positives for the president-elect, including a smear piece on his primary rival Ted Cruz about an alleged extramarital affair and an item suggesting that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy. In typical Enquirer fashion, neither was true — which did not stop Trump from repeating them both on Twitter and on the campaign stump.
Moreover, it recently came to light that AMI reportedly agreed to pay $150,000 to a former Playboy centerfold for her story recounting her affair with Trump a decade earlier. The story was then killed by the publisher, which, in addition to owning the Inquirer, also owns Radar Online, Star and OK, among others.
Pecker’s Enquirer was also one of the few publications that endorsed the Republican candidate; another was — not surprisingly given his familial ties — Kushner’s Observer.
More evidence of Trump’s cozy relationship with AMI, which may suggest acquisition interest, is based on the fact that the president-elect and Kushner are friends with AMI chief executive officer David Pecker. Trump has lauded the Enquirer for its reporting on the John Edwards scandal and he has taken to Twitter—which means it must be important—to praise his friend.
“Time magazine should name David Pecker of American Media to be its top guy…but they are not smart enough to do that!” Trump tweeted in 2013.
There have also been rumors that Pecker was promised an ambassador job by Trump, but AMI denied those reports.
Pecker’s ties to Kushner have been slightly less obvious, although when the Observer shuttered its print edition it was revealed that subscribers would either receive a refund or get Pecker’s Star Magazine. The bizarre offering was proof point of a closeness between Pecker and Kushner.
Indeed, while readers are usually offered some kind of alternative magazine option or a refund when a title shutters, the publications normally have similar readerships.
Setting aside the election, the Observer had a more liberal, New York-centric bent and less of a tabloid flavor. Again, the fact that readers would be offered the option of receiving an AMI-owned magazine may have stoked “baseless” rumors that the publisher had interest in the Observer, a source noted.