Yusef Jackson's Money

Ownership of a media outlet can still occasionally protect public figures from unwelcome attention. New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch does seem to have a tacit non-disparagement arrangement with Mort Zuckerman of the New York Daily News. However, an investment like Yusef Jackson and Ron Burkle's in Radar magazine is the equivalent of one of those fluffy tails that grayhounds chase after so mindlessly: tantalizing to any muckraking journalist.

For sure, Radar's hacks have avoided the story of the "nuts" slip by Yusef's father, the Reverend Jesse. But it's not as if that's stifled the story, and Radar's silence merely draws further notice to the tangled connections between the magazine and its investors. It's a perfect excuse to explore Yusef Jackson's murky fortune.

The money for Yusef Jackson's investment in Radar comes from a highly profitable Chicago distributorship for Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser beer. And Yusef took possession of that cash-cow after meeting August Busch IV, heir to the beer fortune and now chief executive, at an event to promote black entrepreneurship in 1996. Their two fathers had clashed back in the 1980s, when Jesse Jackson's followers protested the lack of minority-owned Anheuser-Busch distributorships.

A couple of years later, the beer-maker assuaged restive minority workers at one of its biggest Chicago affiliates by offering the business to the Reverend's son. And who made the reconciliation between the Jackson and Busch dynasties possible? Why California supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle, of course, host of the event at which the two scions met.

The younger Busch and Burkle also both bankrolled Yusef's first media venture, a dotcom bubble website called OneNetNow.com, which was supposed to bring more minorities to the internet. The billionaire grocer and Yusef also teamed up to bid for the right-wing Chicago newspaper, the Sun-Tribune.

Burkle's munificence-from a fortune built on low-paid supermarket workers-has even extended to the once-fiery Reverend's extended family. The wealthy Friend-of-Bill, whom Jackson has helped maintain labor peace at his supermarkets, helped house the Reverend's illegitimate child by Karin Stanford, and put the mother on his payroll. One doesn't like to agree too often with Bill O'Reilly, but he's probably justified in calling Burkle the "sugar daddy" of the Jackson family.

All of which is to say: money and favors are exchanged just as eagerly by members of the liberal elite as by the conservatives who have traditionally monopolized business in the US. If anything though, they are even more prone to make vanity investments, such as Yusef Jackson's in Radar, as if they imagine this is what rich people do.

"If Bush can be president, why can't Yusef and Jonathan have a distributorship?" Jesse Jackson told critics at a meeting of the Chicago Association of Black Journalists in 2001, with a wonderful sense of entitlement. Yusef is as much entitled to as much help from family friends as the heir to any white dynasty; to any distributorship he can secure; and to any magazine he's foolish enough to fund. And with that privilege also comes the occasional item such as this, calling into question the origins of his fortune, and his motives as a media investor.