III/ The Coalition

Shortly before they both invested in Radar Magazine, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein teamed up to make a totally different media acquisition. As part of a larger collective of billionaires, millionaires and other media mavens, the deviant duo tried to buy up New York Magazine. Why? To get its nose out of their business…

If you saw the recent documentary about Harvey Weinstein on telly the other week, you’ll know about the “Fuckin’ Sheriff” incident already.

If you didn’t happen to catch it, briefly, this is the story:

In November 2000, in the run-up to the Bush v Gore election, there was a rumour going around media and movie circles that Harvey Weinstein was deliberately delaying the release of one of his films in order to boost Al Gore’s chance of winning the presidency.

The film in question was O: the Mekhi Phifer/Julia Stiles/Josh Hartnett high school retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello. O had originally been due for release in 1999 but got pulled because of the shooting at Columbine High. Given that the film reaches a pretty violent and bloody end (Shakespeare’s fault, as much as anybody’s) it was felt that it might be a little insensitive to promote, so the decision was taken to hold it back a while.

18 months later, O was still on the shelf.

The cast and creative team behind the film grew increasingly frustrated, wondering if the movie they’d all worked so hard on was ever going to see the light of day. Enough time had passed since the shooting, they felt, for it not to look ghoulish – but for some reason Miramax seemed reticent to release it. The suspicion was that Weinstein (who had been a big-ticket donor to the Gore/Lieberman campaign) was sitting on it specifically to spare Democrats a headache – as criticising violence in mass media had, in light of the events at Columbine, become a cornerstone of Gore’s campaign.

It was only hearsay at this point, of course. No-one really had any concrete evidence that this was actually Weinstein’s plan. So – the night before the election – a reporter for the New York Observer, Rebecca Traister, decided to find out for herself.

It just so happened that Harvey was throwing a lavish celebrity party that same night, so Traister popped down to the Tribeca Grand Hotel to see if she could get anything on record. Initially, the question didn’t cause any commotion. She asked Harvey what was happening with O and he waved it away, claiming that the film was nothing to do with him, it was one that his brother Bob was looking after.

And that was that. Until a few moments later, when Harvey came back to Traister to tell her that, actually, she wasn’t allowed to use that. His quote had been off the record.

Traister was confused by this, as she hadn’t agreed for their talk to be off-record. So she refused, informing him that that wasn’t how quote-giving works. Weinstein did not take this well and started bellowing “WHO IS THIS CUNT? WHO LET THIS FUCKING CUNT IN HERE?” – at which point Traister’s boyfriend (Andrew Goldman, himself a journalist) stepped in to intervene.

Funnily enough, Goldman’s presence didn’t do much to calm the situation. In fact, it rather made things worse. Weinstein snarled at the pair, “You know what? I’m glad I’m the fuckin’ sheriff of this shit-ass fuckin’ town” before pushing Goldman down some stairs, grabbing him in a headlock and punching him in the head, while trying to snatch his dictaphone.

This fight soon spilled out onto 6th Avenue where a gaggle of paparazzi was waiting outside. Naturally, they began snapping.

You’d think that a story like this – where one of Hollywood’s biggest producers interrupted his own party to brawl with a journalist on the streets of Manhattan – would be juicy enough to make a splash in the news. Eeven if it was only a New York tabloid, or Hollywood industry mag, it seems like someone, somewhere would be interested in running it. Yet, it didn’t make a ripple.

It’s possible that Weinstein got lucky. That election coverage bumped the story; that it was simply too cold to pick back up the day after.

It’s highly unlikely though.

Traister says that she was told by her editor not to write up what happened with Harvey in her story, that it just wasn’t worth getting on his bad side for. And Goldman? He filed a police report about the incident, but it can’t have caused too many hard feelings as, within the year, he’d ended up where everyone else that Weinstein wanted to control did: writing for Talk magazine.

So how did the Fuckin’ Sheriff story first come to be widely known? Because another journalist – a friend of Goldman’s, David Carr – included it in a profile that he wrote about Harvey Weinstein a whole year later: The Emperor Miramaximus.

Carr died in 2015, so he didn’t live long enough to see the Fall of Weinstein, but he’d have been reassured to discover that his instincts back then had been broadly correct. He’d also be relieved to learn he hadn’t become unduly paranoid either as Weinstein was almost certainly having him surveilled (something Carr alluded to in his piece, commenting on Weinstein’s “near-perfect visibility into my notebook, ticking off a list of people I’ve talked to and what we talked about and then taking pleasure as my eyes widen.”)

The Emperor Miramaximus ran in New York Magazine in December 2001. Having a dogged reporter like Carr on his case clearly gave Weinstein the chills. Which is partly why, in December 2003, Weinstein would make a bid to become a co-owner of that very publication.

A position he was hoping to take up with another co-investor chum of his.

Jeffrey Epstein.

The Mystery Man

It’s entirely possible to make millions on Wall Street without generating any real public profile. Every day, hundreds of thousands of financiers all across the world manage to juggle astronomical amounts of money, pocket huge wads of the stuff for themselves, and live very richly on the proceeds without ever attracting any sort of serious international attention.

Keeping under the radar is easy enough to do if you’re prepared to adhere to one golden rule: Never, under any circumstance, invite two of the world’s most prominent sex cases – Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey – onto your private jet and fly them halfway around the globe.

Unfortunately for Jeffrey Epstein, it was exactly this hurdle that tripped him in 2002.

Up until that point, Epstein had been seen as a fairly unremarkable money manager. A millionaire, sure. One who occasionally cropped up in gossip columns because of his on-off society girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, or a handful of other fancy friends. For a decade or so, he managed to keep on just the right side of the line. But by inviting a superstar cadre of flying celebrity perverts to take a trip to Africa aboard his Boeing 727 (a vessel nicknamed the ‘Lolita Express’) he instantly made himself an urgent figure of interest.

Who was this mysterious moneyman who mixed Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington at 30,000ft? The press was now very keen to find out.

In Part Two, we briefly discussed a magazine profile on Epstein that ran in Vanity Fair in 2003 (the one the author claims VF‘s Editor-in-Chief, Graydon Carter, meddled with at the behest of Epstein himself). It wasn’t the first piece to run on him though. Six months earlier, in October 2002, a primer entitled ‘Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman Of Mystery’ was published. Where?

Where else? New York Magazine.

While the NYMag story doesn’t contain any bombshell revelations as such, it’s still pretty jaw-dropping to read it in 2019 – after Epstein’s arrest, conviction, re-arrest and death – if only to see just how much of the stuff we’re now talking about today first reared its head in late 2002.

For example, that early NYMag feature is the one that contains the damningly indiscreet quote from Trump which recently came back to haunt them both (“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life”).

As well as Trump, Clinton and Spacey getting shout-outs, Prince Andrew gets a cheeky little namecheck too. Handsy Andy has been heavily implicated in the ensuing fallout of the Epstein scandal, with multiple women pointing fingers at him (including former Mar-A-Lago towel girl, Virginia Roberts Guiffre, who claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times when she was below the age of consent).

Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former lover and suspected madam, is also featured prominently. Not only does she get an early mention right up top in the second paragraph, there’s a pretty substantial section dedicated to the peculiarities of her relationship with Epstein.

There was – we should make clear – no suggestion in this 2002 piece that Maxwell was Epstein’s chief child recruiter, procuring young girls for him and his friends to have sex with. Those allegations were still a long way off from surfacing. Still, as a first stab at trying to figure out what the hell Jeffrey Epstein’s deal was, NYMag managed to nick an impressive number of vital organs.

Of all the eerie foreshadowing now visible in it, the most telling bit is a quote from an unnamed friend of Epstein. They repeat a line to the writer, which they say is how Epstein once described his line of work to them:

“I invest in people — be it politics or science. It’s what I do.”

Funnily enough, it wasn’t long after this profile ran in New York Magazine, that Epstein decided to start investing in a totally new sort of person.


The Press Gang

What with all the out-of-court settlements, lawyers’ bills, corporate bankruptcies and extremely suspicious deaths in prison, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein are no longer the men of means they once were. In the early 2000s though, it was an entirely different picture.

Back then, the pair of them had money to burn, portfolios to diversify and –most pressing of all – stories to kill. But buying up New York Magazine wasn’t an investment that the two of them were going to be making alone. They had some other interested associates who were prepared to go in on it with them. Fellow multimillionaires and billionaires who seemed keen to shoulder some of the costs and savour some of the perks of owning an influential publication.

This loosely bound gang of media prospectors even had a cool media nickname picked out for them. They were known in the industry as “The Coalition”.

And who were they?

Donny Deutsch (Net Worth: $200m)
An advertising and marketing executive by inheritance, Donny was never really satisfied to just work in his dad’s old business. He had aspirations of his own, to become a big media personality. His attempt to carve out a TV career stretches back to his first appearance on Match Game (America’s version of Blankety Blank) in his early 20s, and has continued right up to the present day with him doing piecemeal pundit work on multiple news channels, hosting his own talk show, starring in a short-lived semi-autobiographical sitcom, Donny! – as well as doing a stint as a judge on NBC’s The Apprentice alongside his then-friend (now-nemesis) Donald Trump.

Obviously none of this would have been possible for him to do from behind his desk at Deutsch Inc, so he sold the family business in 2000 for $245m shortly before joining The Coalition.

Nelson Peltz (Net Worth $1.7 billion)
A drop-out from Donald Trump’s alma mater (the Wharton School), Peltz got his start at his grandfather’s business – working as a delivery driver, transporting wholesale food provisions around New York. As time went on, he took greater charge of operations and ended up getting involved in all sorts of food, drink and confectionary companies, making acquisitions and investments in Heinz, Cadbury’s, Snapple, Kraft, Pepsi and all sorts.

Although he’s more commonly known as being the guy who owns fast food chain Wendy’s.


Mort Zuckerman (Net Worth: $2.9 billion)
Also a Wharton man, Mortimer ‘Mort’ Zuckerman was The Coalition’s only real media proprietor – and therefore became their de facto leader. He had a great deal of experience in the field when NYMag came on the market, with a number of recognisable titles already under his belt.

As a publisher he had previously owned The Atlantic (which he had for nearly 20 years) and FastCompany (which he sold five years after launching it for $300m+). At the time time of bidding for NYMag he also owned the New York Daily News (which sold in 2017, after almost 25 years) and US News & World Report (which he still owns, 35 years after first acquiring it).


Michael Wolff (Net Worth: rich in experience)
His most recent moment in the spotlight having come earlier this year for writing an incendiary book about the inner workings of the Trump White House (Fire And Fury), Michael Wolff was a unique figure in the Coalition. He wasn’t bringing a cash investment to the party. Instead, he was bringing his media savvy.

Already a columnist for NYMag, Wolff was The Coalition’s inside man; the one who was supposed to be navigating the deal in-house, keeping his ear to the ground and letting them know how best to manage their bid. In return, he was lined up to get some cushty role at the mag.

Unfortunately for them, Wolff’s ear wasn’t pressed to the ground as closely as it should have been.

The Coalition’s bid got a lot of coverage. In no small part, this was thanks to Wolff – who was always on hand to give media reporters an update as to his co-investors’ progress, talking up the robustness of their bid. From reports at the time, the received opinion was that David Pecker and American Media, Inc. posed their biggest threat – but Wolff made it clear that The Coalition wasn’t worried.

In focusing so intently on how comprehensively they were going to crush AMI’s bid, The Coalition failed to spot another billionaire outrider, Bruce Wasserstein, who was also interested. He quietly swooped in with a bid of $55million and snatched the whole thing up from right under their nose.

Which was disappointing for The Coalition – but it wasn’t quite the end.

Picking Up Radar

You may feel like this is an awful lot of talk about New York Magazine for a story that is ostensibly supposed to be about Radar and American Media, Inc. – but this is where it turns around.

After they’d lost the bid for NYMag, but before they disbanded, The Coalition considered one final investment opportunity. It came from the man The Coalition had been toying with installing as editor if their bid had been successful. A man whose name you might remember:

Maer Roshan.

Weinstein’s golden boy from Talk had originally come from NYMag, so would have been a perfect fit had they managed to secure the takeover. But, as they hadn’t been, Roshan used the chance to draw up ideas for a new magazine of his own and put it front of this purpose-built panel of multimillionaire media investors: Radar.

You’ll know the pitch for it by now. A smart, snarky, urbane pop culture magazine that doesn’t take itself or its subjects too seriously (yadda, yadda, yadda…)

However, though The Coalition did seriously consider the bid, it didn’t really seem to appeal to most of them – and for understandable reasons.

Michael Wolff already had a good gig at a prestigious magazine. He didn’t want to have to start over again at a new title.

A couple of Nelson Peltz’s kids would go on to wind up in showbiz, but was that really reason enough to fund a snarky new pop culture magazine? He was probably going to do much better by his kids returning to his established investment portfolio and support them with the family billions.

And Donny Deutsch? Realistically, Donny wanted to be featured in magazines like Radar, not to own them.

So, one by one, they started to fall away. Soon The Coalition was down to three – but the ones who remained ended up investing in Radar.

As we told you in Part One, Weinstein was the first to step up. He raised the funds for Radar‘s initial test issues in 2003 but, once they were published, money from Miramax dried up and Roshan had to put the magazine on hiatus while he secured further funding.

A second round came a few years later from Jeffrey Epstein and fellow Coalition partner, Mort Zuckerman: who initially pledged a joint $25m to fund the magazine through the next stages in 2005. That amount was later capped at around $10m however (the suspicion being that – in working closely with Epstein, and getting a bit of an early sense into the sorts of things that floated his boat – Zuckerman found out about his Epstein’s particular ‘tendencies’ and wanted nothing further to do with him, cutting his investment short and running).

Zuckerman’s early departure from Radar 2.0 left Roshan in a slightly tricky spot, but not as tricky a spot as Epstein did – who was being thoroughly investigated by Palm Beach Police.

So Roshan needed to find a third, and final, investor to help get him over the hump and get Radar publishing on a regular basis. Thankfully for him, another billionaire answered his call and stepped in to fund Maer Roshan’s third and final attempt to get Radar off the ground – before the whole thing got sold, lock stock and barrel, to the tabloid magazine behemoth, American Media Inc.

Supermarket billionaire, Ron Burkle.

The man who tried to buy the National Enquirer earlier this year…

Part Four…