AMI Executives Agree: Everything's Fine at AMIS

Yesterday we told you that a revolt may be brewing at National Enquirer publisher AMI, where employees are upset about furloughs, layoffs, and perceived management screw-ups following its recent bankruptcy. Did we get some feedback from AMI execs? Did we!

Our post went up at 12:56 yesterday afternoon. Before the afternoon was over, we'd received all of the following emails, in close succession. (We did not receive a forward of the email that went around the AMI offices saying 'Everyone email Gawker immediately,' but feel free to send it along.)

So... is this a sensitive subject?

From Barry Levine, executive editor of the National Enquirer:

Mr. Hamilton Nolan –

I just had a read of your story, "Is a Revolt Brewing at AMI?"

There's indeed outrage here – but it's certainly not against David Pecker. It's against your reporting!

When David Pecker acquired AMI more than a decade ago, I'm proud to say I became his first editorial hire and was charged with opening The Enquirer's first news reporting bureau in NYC.

In the challenging years since — through 9-11, the nation's first Anthrax attack on us in Florida in which one of our photo editors was killed, the tough economic times facing our country and the print business, literally through thick and thin – I can tell you that this is a man who has always cared about his employees and about keeping our company afloat.

In terms of what I do, I can tell you that David has managed to come through with the deep-pocketed resources (sometimes at his own personal expense) to allow us to do the heavy-lifting investigative reporting that's been required to break world-beater stories like John Edwards and Tiger Woods (and, I'm proud to say, put a supermarket tabloid in contention for a lofty and high-brow Pulitzer Prize!).

David — it should be pointed out — often backs these difficult stories behind the scenes while under great personal and legal threat – but he does so because he believes in the Journalism and he believes in his reporters and editors.

That's why I'm angry when you throw off a quote from an insider talking about his "mismanagement, dishonesty and incompetence." It's not the guy we know.

By the way, I happen to be working this week out of our LA office where great reporters from both Star and Enquirer and now working together as an even greater reporting team –and I can tell you the energy level is high and the spirit to break stories is what the people here are hot and bothered about!

Maybe you should follow one of our practices and ask your "insider" to pass a polygraph test – because I think they'd fail miserably!

Barry Levine
National Enquirer Executive Editor/Director of News

From Tony Frost, editor in chief of the National Enquirer:

Dear Mr. Hamilton,

Someone is winding you up….this article is pure BS. Here in Boca we're busy preparing exciting new issues of The Enquirer and GLOBE and there's not a pitchfork in sight. Revolt? Your sources haven't sparked one yet! As far as I'm concerned the issue over bonuses is a red herring. I haven't got one but I'm not envious of those who will. Those people worked their butts off to get us in and out of bankruptcy in near record time – 35 days, I believe. Now we are entering 2011 in a far stronger position thanks to their efforts. And, there is nobody better equipped to take AMI forward than David Pecker. I've been with David since October 1999 and regard him as a superb leader whose knowledge and understanding of our complex industry is second to none. The negative statements about him are clearly given to you by someone with an agenda. Those remarks are false and I can only speak from working with David since October 1999 and say that he has always been totally honest with me, never breaking a single promise – and he has made many of them!

Perhaps you can go back to you sources and let me know when I need to man the barricades

From David Olson, corporate counsel to AMI:

Your source claims that "Everybody believes the company would be better off without David Pecker" and that "His mismanagement, dishonesty and incompetence drove the company into bankruptcy."

As Corporate Counsel of American Media, Inc. since January 2003 and Secretary to its Board of Directors since September 2008, I have worked very closely with David Pecker and I'm confident that I am in a much better position than your source to speak to David Pecker's character and performance as the CEO of American Media, Inc.

First, I have personally witnessed numerous situations where David Pecker has acted with complete integrity and demonstrated genuine candor – even in circumstances where doing so was not in his best interest and where he would face no repercussions for choosing to act otherwise. He's definitely a tough negotiator and sometimes, like any other CEO, he's had to make unpleasant decisions. But to say that he's dishonest is both groundless and unfair.

Second, I would like to point out that your source's allegation that David Pecker somehow "drove the company into bankruptcy" is completely untrue. The fact is that American Media, Inc. became saddled with most of its debt as a result of the actions of its previous private equity shareholders. This is a fairly well-documented phenomenon (see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-04-12/debt-loads-tell-truth-about-private-equity-charade-david-pauly.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/business/worldbusiness/03iht-equity.4.17482418.html), but your source does not appear to be financially sophisticated or even interested in the facts.

Third, contrary to what your source claims, everyone I've spoken with at American Media, Inc. recognizes that the company would be much worse off without David Pecker. Admittedly, these are tough times for print media companies. But David Pecker has brought all of his 30+ years experience as a media company executive to bear on the difficult task of navigating American Media, Inc. through a sluggish economy and the digital revolution facing all content producers. And when the recession caught most media companies off guard in late 2008, David Pecker took swift action to mitigate the effects on the business and operations of American Media, Inc. – which today employs over 600 people. There is no doubt in my mind that those 600 people (and their livelihoods) would be far worse off if David Pecker had not been at the helm of our company.

Finally, without going into details that I am not at liberty to share, I'd like to point out that David Pecker's compensation is substantially less than that of his peers – even after you adjust for differing company sizes. In fact, because David Pecker works all the time, he is probably the worst paid CEO on an hourly basis. So, your source's claim that David Pecker and "other executives are getting even more rich on the backs of good people who have worked very hard over the years for AMI" is a complete distortion of the truth.

I sincerely hope that, with the information I've now given to you, any future communications that you receive from your source will be kept in the proper light.

From John Swider, president and CEO of AMI's distribution unit:

I have been with the company since 1984, fifteen years prior to David Pecker's arrival in 1999.

Without question, I can say unequivocally the company I've grown to love over the last quarter of a century would not exist today without his tireless efforts on all fronts.

To have led this company thru a prepackaged bankruptcy with such positive financial results at a time the industry as a whole is struggling mightily was a herculean task.

There is no doubt that David Pecker is a tough, hard driving street fighter, but there is also no denying that he is totally dedicated and committed to not only this company but its employees.

I only wish that the "beleaguered employees that are on the verge of revolt" could see him like I do on a daily basis fighting the good fight on the company and employee's behalf.

From David Jackson, AMI SVP and group publisher:

Revolt??? Nothing of the kind happening at AMI.
David Pecker is a great CEO and leader.
Check your sources!

From Candace Trunzo, editor in chief of Star magazine:

What revolt? This is a crock! Your source clearly has an axe to grind. At Star, we are committed to the magazine, AMI and most especially David. He is a superb leader!

From Mike Antonello, AMI general counsel:

Dear Hamilton,

I am writing in my personal capacity as an executive who has worked for David Pecker for over ten years. As a longtime follower of Gawker.com, I was disappointed to read today's post entitled "Is a Revolt Brewing at AMI?" I know for a fact that the allegations contained in your post are untrue.

For example, you reprinted that "Everybody believes the company would be better off without David Pecker". I, for one, don't believe that is the case. Other print publishers are closing. After our restructuring, we are looking to expand and even offer our services to other publishers.

Likewise, you republished the libelous allegation that "His mismanagement, dishonesty and incompetence drove the company into bankruptcy". That is a pretty harmful allegation to lob out there without even a single example or illustration to back it up! I know firsthand that those allegations are untrue as well.

Finally, while I agree with your source that good people work very hard at AMI, I can assure you that no one, no one, works harder at AMI than David. The man works year-round, all day and night. It would take a minimum of three executives to replace him.

I might add that I did not, and will not be receiving, a "transaction bonus" referred to by your source. In my opinion, however, the men and woman who will receive them are very deserving of a bonus for all their hard work to complete the transaction in record time and to the benefit of the entire company.

From Julia Coates, editor at the National Enquirer:

Nonsense! I've worked at AMI with David Pecker for over a decade and can tell you that David is one of the hardest working and most respected and trusted CEOs in the business. We support David's decision making and will always stand by him.

From Samantha Trenk, AMI VP of public relations:

I want to let you know how strongly I disagree with your story on David Pecker and AMI. David led the company through a difficult time extremely smoothly while keeping us informed and employed.

My co-workers and I have every confidence that David will continue to lead AMI as a powerhouse in the publishing world.

From Mireya Throop, of the National Enquirer:

Gawker: I do not know where you are getting this Revolt Information, but it is Totally WRONG. I work at AMI and NO ONE here is Revolting nor are we taking any kind of "Legal Action" to remove Pecker. Times are tough and we are all working very hard and glad that we still have jobs. Your source needs to get a life or get another job (if he/she can find one! ) I know we have freedom of speech but to put this out there and make it sound like we are in the process of taking some kind of action and all brewing with anger is Completely Incorrect and Totally Irresponsible on your part.

From Jeff Rodack, editor in chief of Globe magazine:

Read your piece with interest, but I have to tell you it is just not happening here. Someone is feeding you bad info. I've been with the company for nearly 25 years and pride myself for having a good feel for what's happening in the newsroom. Instead of planning a revolt, everyone is busy at work planning the next issue of GLOBE. By the way…you're wrong about David Pecker. He's a great leader, who has always been honest with me.

From Dina Zajicek, executive assistant at AMI:

This article is such crap! Gawker needs to get a better source/rat before writing such bogus bullshit about Pecker and AMI. Whoever your source is, really needs to get a life and a find new job.

We also got the following emails from AMI employees:

I love what you wrote about David Pecker. He's such an megalomaniac, and i wish the board of AMI would throw his injudcious ass out. But i think it's a wet dream to think we, the employees of AMI, can get rid of him...at least your article finally shined some badly needed negative light on David Pecker. Some of the titles have been around for over 75 years, only to eventually fall victim to his bad decisions. Sigh.

And:

AMI employee here. I've been with the company [nearly a decade]. I haven't heard of any revolt, but it wouldn't surprise me, and it certainly wouldn't be unjustified. Morale is not good right now for a variety of reasons...AMI is just a bad, poorly run company and has been for several years now.

There you have it. You can always email me.

[Photo via Getty]