In November, shortly after he was suddenly replaced as American Media Inc.’s top lawyer, Cameron Stracher spoke about his decision to hire Jon Fine, who ended up becoming Stracher’s successor.
Now, Stracher is operating a media and entertainment law practice in New York. And Fine is dealing with bombshell allegations that he and AMI, the country’s largest tabloid publisher and owner of the National Enquirer, attempted to extort Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person in the world, by threatening to release his private text messages and photos.
Fine did not respond to a request for comment, but AMI issued a statement Friday in which the company asserted that it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.”
“Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him,” AMI added. “Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”
Fine worked for Amazon from 2008 to 2015, first as an associate general counsel of media and copyright and later as director of author and publishing relations, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was serving as the senior vice president and publisher of Open Road Integrated Media before he joined AMI.
“I did hire Jon Fine,” Stracher said in November.
He declined an interview request Thursday to discuss Bezos’ extortion allegations against AMI and Fine. But he explained in the prior interview that Fine was supposed to serve as his deputy general counsel and alleviate some of the pressure that Stracher had been feeling as a result of what he described as a demanding work schedule, one that included attending evening editorial meetings three days a week.
“That’s a real burden,” he said. “I couldn’t go on vacation. I went to London for a week and I was on the phone the whole time.”
But while Fine was supposed to work under Stracher, he ended up becoming Stracher’s successor after Stracher had a public dust-up with AMI chairman and CEO David Pecker, according to a report from the New York Post, which Stracher confirmed. But he declined to talk on the record about his reported clash with Pecker and subsequent departure from AMI, where he’d served as general counsel of media since 2007.
Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, wrote in a blog post Thursday on Medium titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” that AMI had threatened to publish his personal photos and texts unless he stated publicly that he had “no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
Bezos’ post also included an email that Fine allegedly sent outlining the details of the proposal to withhold publishing the photos and texts in exchange for Bezos’ public statement.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption,” Bezos wrote. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
In the wake of Bezos’ post, investigative reporter Ronan Farrow wrote on Twitter that he “and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI.’”
He added he “did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.”