The National Enquirer is being sold to James Cohen, an heir to the Hudson News newsstand chain.
American Media Inc. is selling the Enquirer and other tabloids to Cohen, who is part of the family that founded Hudson News Distributors, the leading magazine distributor on the East Coast, according to the Associated Press.
The sale is expected to reduce AMI’s debt to $355 million, the Washington Post reported, citing a person familiar with the New York company’s finances. The Post, which first reported on the sale, said Cohen was paying $100 million for the Enquirer.
Cohen and AMI Chairman David Pecker are longtime business friends.
Representatives of AMI and Hudson Media did not respond to requests for comment.
This month, AMI — owner of the Enquirer, the Globe and National Examiner — said its board had concluded a strategic operational review of its tabloid business, which began in August, leading to the decision to explore strategic options for the brands.
The move will “likely result in their sale in the near future,” the company said in a release.
Among the potential bidders was supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle, who controls L.A.-based Yucaipa Cos., according to the New York Times. A spokesman for Burkle denied he was buying the Enquirer.
In February, The Times reported that CalPERS, California’s massive pension fund, was a major investor in the National Enquirer. Meghan White, a CalPERS spokesperson, declined to comment other than to say that it is “still working to exit” the Chatham Eureka Fund, through which CalPERS owned as much as one-third of AMI.
It’s unclear whether the Chatham Eureka Fund, managed by the New Jersey hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, is still invested in AMI or if CalPERS remains one of AMI’s largest indirect investors.
The tabloid has drawn the growing scrutiny of federal prosecutors for its ties to President Trump during the 2016 campaign.
AMI’s decision to sell comes on the heels of the Jeff Bezos scandal in which the Amazon founder accused the Enquirer of extortion using leaked text messages and nude photos that the publication had obtained. Bezos claimed that the Enquirer was threatening him after he attempted to investigate the publication over its earlier articles about his extramarital affair with TV host Lauren Sanchez.
Though the Enquirer has long had a reputation for using questionable tactics to score celebrity scoops, the Bezos scandal put a new spotlight on Pecker, a former accountant who took over the company in 1999.