During the course of a lengthy careeras "the bad boy" of US publishing,David Pecker has had his fair share of run-ins. But taking on the world's richest man may prove a step too far even for the pugnacious, Bronx-born boss of the National Enquirer.
Jeff Bezos having made the explosive allegation that the Enquirer, America's leading "supermarket tabloid", threatened to publish "intimate" photos of him unless his private investigators backed off the newspaper, is "unlikely to let the matter drop", says Bloomberg. The Amazon founder says he'd rather stomach the exposure of even "below the belt" selfies than "capitulate to extortion or blackmail".
Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, had hired investigators to discover how the Enquirer's journalists got hold of intimate texts between him and his new love interest, Lauren Sanchez.
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In a post last week he emphasised the links between Pecker's publishing firm, America Media Inc (AMI), and both the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia. As Bezos noted, the Post's "unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in some circles".
Deep pockets may be Pecker's downfall
If criminal accusations of blackmail stand up, Pecker might well be judged to have violated a non-prosecution deal he struck with the Feds last summer when he was dramatically granted immunity in the case against Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen. It was claimed then that Pecker and AMI had protected Trump for years from negative sexual stories put about by women in an arrangement known as "catch and kill". AMI, for instance, allegedly paid Playboy model Karen McDougal some $150,000 in "hush money".
A scrappy upbringing
He found his way into publishing after joining the finance department of CBS's magazine department, eventually becoming CEO of Hachette Fillipacchi when the companies merged. In 1999, he moved on to America Media Inc.
He came to earn a grudging respect. Under his tenure, the Enquirer long "the butt of jokes" as "perhaps our nation's least-respected news source" even forayed into serious journalism, says Salon. In 2010 it gained a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the scoop that presidential candidate John Edwards had fathered a child out of wedlock.
Pecker's admiration for Trump dates from the 1990s when he published Trump Style magazine, pandering to Trump's "gold-plated sensibilities", says the Financial Times. He later supported Trump's political ambitions. Enquirer stories during the 2016 presidential campaign linked Trump's Republican rival Ted Cruz to the assassination of John F Kennedy; another favoured target, Hillary Clinton, was described as "a sociopath" with "six months to live". For decades, Pecker "had the power to make or break US public figures". Now "he may end up doing time" for "trying to please Trump", a former editor told the Daily Mail. There may be some poetic justice in that.
Jane writes profiles for MoneyWeek and is city editor of The Week. A former British Society of Magazine Editors editor of the year, she cut her teeth in journalism editing The Daily Telegraph’s Letters page and writing gossip for the London Evening Standard – while contributing to a kaleidoscopic range of business magazines including Personnel Today, Edge, Microscope, Computing, PC Business World, and Business & Finance.
She has edited corporate publications for accountants BDO, business psychologists YSC Consulting, and the law firm Stephenson Harwood – also enjoying a stint as a researcher for the due diligence department of a global risk advisory firm.
Her sole book to date, Stay or Go? (2016), rehearsed the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum.
She lives in north London, has a degree in modern history from Trinity College, Oxford, and is currently learning to play the drums.
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