Many people have criticized The Huffington Post for not paying its writers. But Ken Lerer, who co-founded the site with Arianna Huffington and remains the company's chairman, sure has one heck of a generous streak. Last week, we noticed that Joey Bartolomeo, a senior writer at People and frequent TV talking head, had purchased an apartment on the Upper East Side. What was strange was that Bartolomeo didn't buy the $1.025 million co-op on her own. Lerer's name appeared on the property documents as well. And it turns out that Joey isn't the first member of the Bartolomeo family to have benefited from Lerer's largesse. Bartolomeo's older sister, Stephanie Bartolomeo, picked up a $1.25 million co-op on the Upper West Side back in March. And once again, Lerer co-signed for the apartment.
Stephanie's ties to Lerer are clear. She works in the sales department at the Huffington Post and, before that, worked with Lerer at AOL. Was Lerer's decision to co-sign an act of generosity that he extended to one of his employees? It's possible. Condé Nast occasionally extends that same perk to its top editors. But why did Lerer make the same offer to one of his employees' family members? And why just the Bartolomeos? (A search of city records finds no evidence that Lerer has ever done anything like this for other Huffington Post employees, or anyone else who has worked for him in the past, for that matter.) Do the Bartolomeo girls possess some horribly embarrassing secret that they've been using to blackmail Lerer? Is Lerer carrying on a tawdry affair with both sisters at the same time?
We were hoping the get a very simple explanation so we could put the matter to bed. Weirdly, that hasn't been the case. When we called up Joey at her office at People, she nervously told us we'd have to call Lerer if we wanted any more info, and said she'd have to get off the phone immediately because she was on deadline. So we dialed up Kenny, but he didn't respond to our phone or email messages. Finally, we got Mario Ruiz, the Huffington Post's VP of media relations on the phone, and he said he'd get right back to us. But he never did, and although we've since emailed him and called him a few times, he's yet to respond.
And so the mystery goes on, it seems. Of course, if you know something about this, you're more than welcome to touch base with us and fill us in on the details. We love hearing about extortion attempts and seamy affairs. But a perfectly simple explanation will suffice, too.
Update: There is a simple explanation: Lerer is their uncle, Joey Bartolomeo confirms to Gawker's John Cook. So why all the secrecy? A tipster tells us that it was not common knowledge among Huffington Post staffers that Lerer and Bartolomeo were related, and presumably Lerer had hoped to keep it that way. Guess not.