The National Enquirer’s Parent Company Struggles To Find A Buyer

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For five years, the owner of The National Enquirer has been trying to find a buyer to take it off its hands. But repeated attempts at a sale have turned into a tabloid-worthy saga of its own.

The embattled publication is back in the spotlight because of the hush-money trial of former president Donald J. Trump, which centers on the “catch and kill” practices The National Enquirer deployed in an attempt to bolster Mr. Trump’s chances in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump, the first former U.S. president to face a criminal prosecution, is on trial in New York, charged with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress, to keep her allegations of their affair out of the media. David Pecker, the former publisher of The Enquirer and a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, is the prosecution’s first witness and will testify again on Thursday.

His testimony so far has detailed just how enmeshed The Enquirer was with the Trump campaign, a relationship that saw Mr. Pecker pushed out and that contributed to a tangled web of aborted deals as its owner tried to unload it over the last few years.

Mr. Pecker described in court this week how The Enquirer had worked with the Trump campaign to “catch and kill” potentially damaging stories about Mr. Trump by paying off sources in exchange for their silence. He said he had agreed to act as the “eyes and ears” of the campaign and squash unflattering stories while promoting articles that trashed Mr. Trump’s opponents.

The Enquirer’s extreme brand of checkbook journalism came into full view in 2018 when its parent company, American Media Inc., struck a deal with Manhattan prosecutors to cooperate with an investigation into the hush-money payments in exchange for immunity in the case. The company admitted to making the payments and said it had known they violated campaign finance laws. (It paid a $187,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission for those violations.)

Founded in 1926 as a Sunday afternoon broadsheet, The National Enquirer had morphed into a tabloid magazine by the 1950s and became known in the decades since for sensational, breathless headlines and sordid tales. It published a photo on its cover of Elvis Presley in an open coffin and regularly ran stories about gory true crime and the paranormal.

In 1999, Mr. Pecker was part of an investment group led by Evercore Partners that bought American Media, the parent company, for $294 million.

A New Jersey-based hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, snapped up American Media in 2014. Mr. Pecker stayed on, continuing in his role as the chairman, president and chief executive office of American Media as well as publisher of The Enquirer. Shortly after that, The Enquirer became enmeshed with the Trump campaign.

When news of the tabloid’s tactics broke, Chatham Asset Management pressured Mr. Pecker to offload The Enquirer.

By April 2019, American Media announced it was selling The Enquirer, along with some of its other tabloid brands, to James Cohen, a son of the founder of the Hudson News franchise. The Washington Post reported at the time that the deal was worth $100 million. But months dragged on, and the deal never closed.

Mr. Pecker exited the company in August 2020 when American Media combined with Accelerate360, a logistics firm also controlled by Chatham Asset Management. It was renamed A360 Media.

Still looking to get rid of the tabloid, the parent company found another buyer. In February 2023, A360 Media announced that it had agreed to sell The Enquirer in an all-cash deal to VVIP Ventures, a joint venture between Vinco Ventures, a digital media company, and Icon Publishing, a new company set up for the acquisition. The terms were not disclosed.

Within months, that deal fell apart spectacularly. One of the new buyers, Ted Farnsworth, was arrested in August after violating the conditions of his bond in a separate case: He was accused of defrauding investors at the cinema subscription company MoviePass and remains in custody pending a trial.

Vinco Ventures, once a publicly traded company, collapsed. A former spokesman for Vinco Ventures said in an email that he no longer represented the company.

And so The National Enquirer remains in the hands of A360Media, though its website avoids any mention of the tabloid. A spokesperson for A360Media did not respond to requests for comment.

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