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National Enquirer sold to group including ex-MoviePass chair

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In this photo illustration, celebrity gossip dominates the cover of a National Enquirer magazine on April 11, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

The National Enquirer, the tabloid at the center of several scandals involving former President Donald Trump, will be sold to a joint venture involving Theodore Farnsworth, the former MoviePass chairman who has been criminally charged with securities fraud.

The Enquirer’s parent company, a360 Media, agreed to sell the publication – along with other tabloid brands the National Examiner, the Globe and the National Enquirer UK – to VVIP Ventures, a joint venture made up of Vinco Ventures and Icon Publishing, the companies said Monday. Vinco owns Lomotif, which it touts as a TikTok competitor.

“We look forward to integrating these publications into our business and continuing their legacy of success,” Vinco Executive Chairman Rod Vanderbilt said in a statement.

The deal’s price wasn’t disclosed, but Farnsworth, founder of Icon Publishing, told The New York Times that it was a little under $100 million. The National Enquirer has been on the block for about four years.

Both sides of the transaction have checkered and controversial histories.

In November, prosecutors alleged that Farnsworth and others misled investors about MoviePass, the once-hot movie ticketing startup, by saying its “unlimited” plan would be sustainable and profitable. Rather, authorities said, the two men knew it was merely a marketing tactic. The Securities and Exchange Commission also accused Farnsworth of misdeeds. A spokesman for Farnsworth has said his lawyers would fight the charges until he’s vindicated.

The news of the deal also comes a week after former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and his attorney were seen entering a Manhattan courthouse where a grand jury was meeting to determine whether to charge Trump over an alleged scheme to pay hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Pecker was known to be friends with Trump. He has been accused of pulling “catch and kill” tactics on stories that were seen as potentially embarrassing to Trump. Meaning, the Enquirer under his watch would allegedly pay for stories about Trump and never publish them.

In 2018, for instance, federal prosecutors gave immunity to the National Enquirer’s parent company over the $150,000 hush money payment the tabloid gave Karen McDougal, the Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Trump.

Yet while the Enquirer had occasionally played a key role in American politics over the past few years, given its link to Trump and how it broke the John Edwards affair story in 2008, the supermarket checkout line mainstay is a shadow of its former self. In 2020, The Washington Post reported that the Enquirer’s circulation had fallen 90% over the previous two decades.

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