Why Rich Guys Buy Into Media

Lurking 'neath the sexy Patrick McMullan watermark (someday we'll spring for photo rights, seriously) is a happy scene from the days of Radar magazine's 2.0 period. That's our favorite alleged massage fan Jeffrey Epstein at left, and Radar honcho Maer Roshan at right. In the middle is a young lass captioned only as Adriana; presumably not a sex slave, she might be model Adriana Lima (feel free to correct us) is mostly likely model Adriana Mucinska, whose name turned up in some of Epstein's trash collected by police investigators. At the time this photo was taken — during the May 2005 relaunch party for Radar — Epstein was allegedly doing his sex-tinged massage thing, and though he didn't know it yet, was already the target of a criminal probe regarding same. Maybe buying into a magazine with at least nominal coverage of salacious celebrity stories wasn't the best idea, but fortunately for Epstein, the conflict evaporated with Radar 2.0's demise. Still, why do rich men who somehow possess reputations as both private recluses and also relentless pussy-hounds find themselves inexorably drawn to media, when such investments are often both unprofitable and embarrassing?

The easy answer, of course, is tail. Buckets and buckets of tail, on the hoof and in every conceivable flavor. If you're not a rock star or a movie idol, chances are that no matter how fat your wallet, your actual line of work is dull as a sheaf of tax forms. At least, it will seem dull to the model-starlets you're trying to seduce. Sure, plenty of girls will go along with a strictly financial relationship, where your lack of attractive qualities is eclipsed by your vast wealth. But there's a certain class of sexual conquest that only presents itself/herself/himself with at least a hint of glamour, buzz, or pizzazz, and print media represents one of the most efficient means of quick entry. It's much less work — and usually cheaper — just to write a check for a chunk of mag startup than bankrolling and running a movie, or a record label, or anything else in the same vein. After that, it's parties, photo shoots, and the occasional dinner with Heidi Klum.

Someone like billionaire Ron Burkle is in another class altogether, possessing far more money than Epstein and a much greater interest in tighter spin control. And as we've noted before, his desire to grab a media property isn't entirely unwarranted in terms of self-defense. He has the normal range of rich-guy fascinations, and he's also pretty much proven he can kick butt in more profitable but less sexy business ventures. So, on to Radar 3.0, for predictable reasons. Potentially more interesting, then, is the man who calls Burkle "my friend, my adviser, my mentor — father-like on one level, friend-like on another ..." — Yusef Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse.

The Chicago-based Jackson runs herd on the investor group (including Burkle) funding the latest incarnation of Radar, and it's his first splashy attempt at owning a media property. Both he and Burkle were previously part of a failed bid to buy up the Chicago Sun-Times and its sibling publications. Jackson makes no secret of his ambitions to acquire other media, and one imagines he sees a successful Radar as a way to leverage that future. Though he's effectively a blank slate when it comes to media work — he runs an Anheuser-Busch distributorship — leaks regarding Jackson's Radar plans and personal style promise to make this version of the mag an interesting mutation.

And speaking of blank slates, let's close with a word about 25-year-old Jared Kushner, proud new poppa of the New York Observer. Dude has something of a crazy dad, but Kushner the younger seems clean-cut and wholesome and chipper. He's already drawn numerous emails regarding his spongeworthiness, and whether females appearing with him in photographs are significant others, sisters, or Just Friends. Kushner shouldn't yet need to fall back on the tail-gathering benefits of media involvement, and the Observer is hardly the way to go in the department anyway, unless you have a thing for chicks with MFAs. However, in a neat and relatively painless maneuver, Kushner has proven himself a species of junior Yusef Jackson or the new era's Ron Burkle, ably snapping up one media property in order to someday catapult upward to another that's more profitable, more glamorous, or more sexy. All he need do is avoid an inadvertent evolution into the new Jeffrey Epstein.

Earlier: Jeffrey Epstein, Ron Burkle, Yusef Jacskon, Jared Kushner