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American Media has a history of supporting President Donald Trump in its publications. Now, the media company is finding itself in the middle of an investigation into whether the president had knowledge of hush money payments made on his behalf.
On Thursday, American Media Chairman David Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors as part of an investigation of Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer. Pecker provided information regarding Trump's knowledge on payments made to women alleging to have had affairs with the president, according to The Wall Street Journal. The White House has denied Trump had affairs with the women. American Media's chief content officer, Dylan Howard, also was granted immunity for his information on the matter, Vanity Fair reported.
One of its publications, the National Enquirer, had a safe that contained documents on payments and other stories it withheld to protect Trump's image during the 2016 presidential election, The Associated Press reported. The story from the AP said it can't say if the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a location known to fewer people.
One of the women, former Playboy model Karen McDougal sued American Media for allegedly paying for the rights for the story of her affair with Trump only to hide it from publication, a technique known as "catch and kill." McDougal has been released from her $150,000 contract with American Media.
The media company, which is currently owned by Chatham Asset Management and Omega Charitable Partnership, was founded in 1936 and grew to prominence through its health and fitness publications. Today, American Media's publications include the aforementioned National Enquirer, Men's Journal, Muscle & Fitness, Soap Opera Digest and Mr. Olympia Contest. It has a circulation of more than 2.3 million, and reaches 68 million unique monthly visitors each month, according to the company.
American Media also has a robust celebrity portfolio including OK!, Star, US Weekly, Globe and Radar Online. In June, it acquired 13 titles from Bauer Media Group to add In Touch Weekly, Life & Style and Closer to its publications among others, as well as teen magazines J-14, Teen Boss and Girl's World.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing for American Media. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010, but was later able to exit. Now, the company is reportedly seeking $425 million from capital market investors, according to Debtwire. It will have to pay off $150 million in debt in two years, and another $135 million the year after, Debtwire reported. American Media also recently completed a sale of Shape to Meredith Corp., for a total sale of $79 million. Some of the proceeds will be used to reduce the company's debt to a little under twice its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.