Gossip Writer Causes A Scandal

Billionaire financier Ron Burkle, is seen in an April, 1997, file photo.
AP Photo/Bob Riha Jr.
A gossip writer for the New York Post is suspected of attempting to extort a six-figure payoff from a financier in exchange for not writing negative stories about the billionaire.

Jared Paul Stern, who worked as a freelancer for the newspaper's Page Six gossip column, is suspected of demanding $100,000 and an annual $10,000 stipend from Ron Burkle in exchange for not writing negative stories about him. Burkle, of California, is one of the world's richest men, with an estimated personal wealth of more than $2 billion.

The Daily News, the Post's tabloid rival in New York City, had field day with the story. "Page Six Scandal" screamed the newspaper's front page headline.

The News said federal law enforcement officials had been informed of the alleged extortion attempt and had videotaped two meetings between the gossip writer and the billionaire. The newspaper said this exchange occurred between the two men:

"How much do you want?" Burkle asked.

"Um, $100,000 to get going and then you could get it to me on a month by month, maybe like $10,000," Stern replied, according to the News.

The billionaire had been the target of several unflattering items that have appeared in Page Six.

Stern has been suspended by the Post pending the outcome of an FBI investigation into the allegations, said editor-in-chief Col Allen.

"Should the allegations prove true, Mr. Stern's conduct would be morally and journalistically reprehensible, a gross abuse of privilege, and in violation of the New York Post's standards and ethics," Allen said.