AN NYU LAW student of just twenty-five years of age has purchased the majority stake in the New York Observer. Jared Kushner (right), son of the currently jailed big-time donor to the New Jersey Democrats Charles Kushner, bought the biggest-piece-of-the-pie off of publisher Arthur Carter, who founded the insouciant weekly printed on salmon-tinted paper back in 1988. No official word on how much money changed hands during the deal, though the Times cites “one person familiar with details of the sale” claiming the amount was nearly $10 million. Carter will maintain a significant say in the paper’s operations, and there are no plans to make any changes to the masthead as of the moment. Earlier in the year Robert de Niro was in talks to buy the Observer through his Tribeca Film Festival operation, but the negotiations fell through.
The Observer, with a small-but-influential circulation of 55,000, has undergone a miniature transformation recently with the hopes of turning around the current losses of about $2 million a year. The most noticeable of these changes came in May when the paper trimmed over an inch in width, moving from six front-page columns to five and giving it a taller, more narrow appearance. While the thinner size saves on rising newsprint costs it also means diminished space for advertising, and the newspaper lost its easy, leisurely feel, also moving from two sections to one. The Observer has also increased the volume of its internet operations on Observer.com, some might say at the expense of the quality of the printed edition. The new owner, however, will take a back seat in the content of the newspaper while concentrating on improving the bottom line, citing the Observer‘s strong brand despite its current financial woes.
Kushner’s father, a well-known New Jersey real estate developer, was sentenced to a jail term last year after being found guilty of tax evasion, and is well-known for a number of other stunts which do not bear repeating on, er, family-friendly sites such as this. The younger Kushner himself has given over $100,000 to various (Democratic) political outfits since 1992, when he was a mere eleven years of age.
I used to read the Observer often (though not regularly) because it had the most style of all the New York newspapers. While its flighty spirit meant it lacked a certain depth, it still had zing and usually at least a handful of interesting articles each week. The quality of the content began slipping, however, and when I came home to New York I bought one copy while waiting for the train in Grand Central, was completely dissatisfied like the new size and feel, and decided to give it up. I will always have a certain fondness for the Observer though; in the age when Gannett-style corporate monotony is king, it has managed to maintain a certain classic swankiness (epitomised in its reporter-and-skyline emblem) and for that we can be grateful.