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National Enquirer, Scandal-Plagued Tabloid, to Be Sold

The National Enquirer, the celebrity tabloid behind the “catch and kill” suppression of damaging stories about Donald J. Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, has finally been sold by its parent company.

A360 Media has agreed to sell the publication in a cash deal to VVIP Ventures, a joint venture of the digital media company Vinco Ventures and a new company set up for the purchase, Icon Publishing, the companies announced on Monday. The price was not disclosed.

Two of the National Enquirer’s stablemates, the National Examiner and Globe, will also be acquired as part of the deal, along with the British edition of the Enquirer.

The National Enquirer has come under scrutiny in recent years for a litany of scandals. It paid $150,000 in hush money during the 2016 presidential campaign to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, for the rights to her story of an affair with Mr. Trump, then never published the story. The practice is known as “catch and kill.” It also helped broker a hush money deal with the pornographic film star Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

In 2019, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, accused the Enquirer of extortion and blackmail in exposing his extramarital affair. The Enquirer’s publisher, formerly known as American Media, was pushed by its majority owner, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, to get rid of the tabloid. In April 2019, American Media announced that it would sell the Enquirer and several other publications to James Cohen, an heir to the Hudson News empire, for $100 million. But the sale never went through, eventually fizzling during the pandemic.

One of the new buyers of the National Enquirer, Icon Publishing, was founded by Ted Farnsworth, the former chairman of the start-up theater subscription company MoviePass. In November, Mr. Farnsworth was indicted by the Department of Justice on charges of defrauding investors. Mr. Farnsworth declined to comment on the charges.

The other buyer in the joint venture, Vinco Ventures, has a majority stake in Lomotif, a TikTok rival, and owns AdRizer, an ad tech company.

The buyers said in an interview that they planned to expand the publications’ digital presence and tap the Enquirer’s expansive archives of nearly 100 years of celebrity news and gossip.

“Since I was a little kid, I’ve seen the National Enquirer everywhere you go, all over the country and in Europe, too,” said Rod Vanderbilt, the executive chairman of Vinco Ventures. “That brand recognition is amazing and is going to play such a role in cross-pollinating with other companies we have.”

Mr. Farnsworth, the founder of Icon Publishing, declined to specify the cost of the deal, but said it was “a little less” than the $100 million price tag that was previously considered.

“It was just a sleeping giant sitting there not taking any advantage of the digital side,” he said.

He said that the publications were profitable, mostly from print and subscription sales, with estimated revenues of about $29 million and about $13.5 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA. As part of the deal, the buyers will have a 90-day exclusive window to buy other A360 Media publications. There is also a multiyear agreement for A360 Media to continue to provide publishing and distribution services for the print products.

Mr. Farnsworth said that the editorial teams of the magazines would be retained and would continue publishing as normal. He said the new owners intended to aggressively pursue TV, film and podcast opportunities.

The Enquirer’s archives, he added, have “everything from Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, all the way back.”

“Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of articles over the years that we have at our disposal, something that no one else has,” he said.

In a statement, Doug Olson, the president of A360 Media, said, “It’s clear this is the home we have been waiting for to place these publications.”

The deal is expected to close in the coming months.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com