- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A gossip writer for the New York Post has been suspended pending a federal investigation into whether he tried to extort money from a billionaire California financier, the newspaper reported yesterday.

Jared Paul Stern, who worked freelance for the newspaper’s Page Six 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, the Post said.

“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,” editor in chief Col Allen said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Post declined to elaborate on the newspaper’s report. FBI spokeswoman Christine Monaco declined to comment.

There was no answer at a telephone number listed for a Jared Paul Stern in New York City; a message left at another number listed under that name in New York state was not returned.

Mr. Burkle, one of the world’s richest men, has an estimated personal wealth of more than $2 billion. He has given millions of dollars to political causes, including more than $200,000 to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and his campaigns.

In a statement, Mr. Burkle said he and his lawyers “have repeatedly written and or told the New York Post lawyers, editors and management that the articles and the items about him in Page Six are inaccurate but to no avail.”

The Post said Mr. Stern worked two days a week for the paper. He also recently served as editor for the inaugural issue of Page Six the Magazine.

Mr. Burkle in February joined forces with union workers at Knight Ridder Inc. newspapers in an effort to buy a group of 12 papers that the McClatchy Co. plans to sell as part of its acquisition of the company. Mr. Burkle’s company, Los Angeles-based Yucaipa Cos. LLC, teamed with the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America as part of the effort.

Yucaipa also is known for its investments in supermarkets, including Food4Less, Dominick’s, Ralphs Grocery Co., Smith’s Food & Drug Stores and Fred Meyer.

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