The owners of The National Enquirer have been in talks to sell the tabloid to Ron Burkle, a supermarket magnate with ties to former President Bill Clinton, according to three people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
(Burkle, the head of Yucaipa Cos., is Aloha Airlines’ former majority investor who rescued the carrier from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2006. Aloha later filed for Chapter 11 in March 2008, and then subsequently Chapter 7 liquidation a few days later, after Yucaipa decided to stop providing further financing amid a fare war initiated by newcomer go! of Mesa Airlines.)
While representatives of The Enquirer, which is owned by American Media Inc., have been in negotiations with Burkle’s team, the deal could fall apart, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private negotiations.
Burkle, who specializes in buying distressed companies, made his initial fortune buying and selling supermarkets in California. In 1999 he helped buy the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise out of bankruptcy; the team has won three Stanley Cup championships since then. In recent years Burkle has been a regular in the gossip pages and on the A-list benefit and party circuit, hobnobbing with the likes of Madonna, U2, Sean Combs, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.
Burkle and his private equity firm, Yucaipa, did not initially respond to requests for comment. After news of the talks was reported Thursday by the Times, a representative said Burkle and Yucaipa were not interested in The Enquirer. “Ron Burkle and Yucaipa are not buying The Enquirer,” Frank Quintero, who works at Yucaipa, said in an email. “Furthermore, I’m told we are not in talks to buy it.”
The disclosure of the talks threatened to scuttle them, leaving both sides frustrated that the news had leaked. Two people with direct knowledge of the talks said Burkle’s team was upset that news of their involvement had been made public, and they felt used by AMI. It is unclear what will happen next, but AMI was pushing to continue the talks.
Burkle and David Pecker, American Media’s chief executive, are said to be friends and have invested in media deals together. Both backed Radar magazine, a short-lived title focused on celebrity and lifestyle which closed in 2008. In his Radar days Burkle remained in the shadows, and Yusef Jackson, son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, was the magazine’s public face.
An acquisition of the Enquirer by Burkle, a longtime Democratic donor, could raise eyebrows in Washington given President Donald Trump’s fondness for the tabloid, which he has praised on Twitter.
The Enquirer, which loses money, drew the attention of federal prosecutors for its role in aiding Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Pecker was said to have helped Trump’s candidacy through a deal to buy a story from a Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump.
American Media acquired the story for $150,000 and never published it, following a tabloid industry practice known as catch-and-kill. Federal prosecutors in New York gave Pecker an immunity deal in its investigation of the arrangement.
When Clinton left office in 2001, he agreed to be an adviser to Burkle’s investment firm, an arrangement with the potential to yield tens of millions of dollars for the former president. Clinton’s role at the time was to help find investment opportunities for Yucaipa and to offer the firm a sheen of credibility.
ON THE MOVE
Atlas Insurance Agency has hired Anna Lissiman and Mimi Healy as senior account managers for its Commercial Lines Unit. Lissiman’s experience includes numerous years of account manager and account executive positions with commercial insurance brokerage and underwriting; and Healy has more than 10 years of industry- related experience with specialization in large construction projects.
Bowers + Kubota, an employee-owned kamaaina architectural/engineering firm, has hired Nick Orense as a senior project manager for its Civil Design team as well as Deborah Jelvani as a project administrator for its Maui team.
Star-Advertiser reporter Dave Segal contributed to this report.