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Dylan Howard, who played a key role in the National Enquirer’s “catch and kill” scandal before exiting American Media last year, has quietly purchased Radar Online from his former company, now known as A360Media.
Howard is expected to run the celebrity and gossip website separately from his other media venture: Grazia USA, the US version of high-end Italian fashion magazine Grazia.
Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Howard acknowledged the purchase in a statement that suggested he has financial backers who are on the prowl for other media assets.
“If we find the right opportunities, we have the willingness, we have the firepower and we have the knowledge to integrate them into a new media conglomerate — but we will not do an acquisition for the sake of doing an acquisition,” Howard said. “It has to fit within our thesis for where we believe the media and technology industries will converge in the short- to medium-term future.”
Howard was brought on as an editor of Radar Online in 2009 and oversaw a series of explosive scoops including Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rants and the firing of Charlie Sheen from “Two and a Half Men.” That success catapulted him him to head of all American Media’s tabloids, including the National Enquirer.
His strategy for Radar Online is unclear, but he’s the site’s fifth owner over a turbulent 18-year lifespan that has been plagued by periods of slumping traffic.
Last year, the site was also hit with deep cuts as American Media scrambled to reduce the pain of declining ad sales in the wake of the pandemic. The website had been practically moribund in the wake of those cuts with only sporadic postings.
In an effort to revitalize the site, Howard has added staff, including newly appointed editor-in-chief Ryan Naumann, formerly of TMZ and The Blast. Naumann has hired Whitney Vasquez, another vet of TMZ and The Blast, as deputy editor and the duo has hired four reporters as well, including former New York Post reporter Doug Montero, who was most recently at the Enquirer. They’ve also added some contributing editors like Merle Ginsberg, formerly at Women’s Wear Daily.
Radar Online started as Radar, a print magazine, before being converted to digital-only under American Media. It was founded in 2003 by Maer Roshan, the current editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Magazine.
Other owners have included New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, who partnered with Jeffrey Epstein to relaunch it in 2005 with plans to spend $25 million. But they pulled the plug at the end of one year, with sources speculating at the time that Zuckerman had caught wind that Epstein was under investigation for sex crimes.
It attracted backing in 2006 from Ron Burkle and Yusef Jackson, the son of Jesse Jackson, but the Great Recession devastated the ad market in 2008 and the print edition folded in the fall of that year.
American Media’s then-CEO David Pecker materialized to buy it in late 2008, envisioning it as a web-only entity to compete with TMZ. He renamed it Radar Online, jettisoning the former staff in the process. Burkle maintained a nominal stake but a spokesman said: “We have no connection with it going forward.”
American Media, now A360 Media, is owned by the secretive hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, headed by Anthony Melchiorre, which took over in August 2020. Insiders confirmed a sale had taken place, but a spokesman declined to comment.
Howard had a top position at American Media when it became ensnared in the “catch and kill” scandal over payments to Playboy model Karen McDougal for her life story, which it then never ran. The payments were made during the 2016 presidential election, which caught the attention of federal prosecutors because McDougal had claimed she’d had an affair with Donald Trump years before, which he has denied.
Howard was ensnared in another controversy in February 2019 when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused him of playing a role in a blackmail attempt over the publication of a news item about the then-married Bezos’ affair with then-married former Fox TV host Lauren Sanchez.
Howard, who has denied any efforts at blackmail, was moved off the tabloids into a development job before eventually exiting the company in early 2020.