To have our newspaper continue harming it:
A New York Post Page Six staffer solicited $220,000 from a high-profile billionaire in return for a year's "protection" against inaccurate and unflattering items about him in the gossip page, the Daily News has learned.
In two 90-minute meetings, characterized by a shocking breach of ethics, Jared Paul Stern, a fixture on the city's gossip scene who also edited Page Six The Magazine, asked for a series of payments from Ron Burkle, the managing partner of Yucaipa Cos., a conglomerate with interests in supermarkets, celebrity clothing lines, and media.
It was all a setup, a sting monitored by law enforcement, including the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI, who are now investigating the extortion attempt. The meetings, on March 22 and March 31, were videotaped.
The shakedown began with a series of e-mails sent last month by Stern to Burkle.
It reached a boiling point more than an hour into the first meeting after Stern outlined various ways Burkle could buy protection on the gossip page.
An exasperated Burkle finally said, "How much do you want?" after Stern said he could control coverage by Richard Johnson, the column's chief writer, and his staff.
"Um, $100,000 to get going and then you could get it to me on a month-to-month, maybe like $10,000," replied Stern.
"Okay, that's a great deal," said Burkle, the subject of numerous Page Six items including a "date" with supermodel Gisele Bundchen, meetings with other women and a nasty breakup with a longtime lover.
Burkle had insisted to Page Six staffers and editors that the items were not true. Among the other false items is a Jan. 1 report that Burkle flew Tobey Maguire, girlfriend Jen Meyer and blonde actress Sarah Foster in his private jet to Aspen, Colo., where they "vacationed at Burkle's mansion."
Burkle does not own a mansion in Aspen, did not fly his private jet to Aspen, and didn't vacation with Foster, Maguire or Meyer.
Last month, the column referred to Burkle, 53, as a "party-boy billionaire."
On Monday, Stern, 36, e-mailed instructions to a designated Burkle employee for a $100,000 down payment to be wired to his New York City bank account, and during the week sent more e-mails wondering where his money was.