Top Tabloid Exec Dylan Howard Out at American Media Inc. (EXCLUSIVE)

Elizabeth Wagmeister and Matt Donnelly

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American Media Inc. executive Dylan Howard is out after more than a decade at the publishing company, Variety has learned exclusively.

Howard’s contract, which expired on March 31, was not renewed. Reasons for his departure were not immediately clear, though rumors of his exit had been brewing internally at the owner of Us Weekly and InTouch magazines for weeks, multiple sources said, with another adding the decision not to renew Howard’s contract was mutual. The unflinching tabloid editor had become the subject of media storms surrounding Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump in recent years.

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Howard and American Media did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

Howard most recently served as a senior vice president in corporate development, where he was said to be conceiving scripted and unscripted projects in the true crime arena. Prior to that, Howard spent six years as the editor in chief of AMI digital gossip property RadarOnline, and previously served as chief content officer for all the David Pecker-run publications including the National Enquirer, Closer, Life&Style and InTouch.

Numerous media reports over the past year suggested Howard had been sidelined at AMI with his editorial role being minimized, as he’s switched his focus to TV and literary projects.

The Australian-born journalist rose to prominence as a tabloid reporter by exposing major stories like Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rants and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s secret child. He was a key figure in Ronan Farrow’s reporting regarding Weinstein’s enablers with Farrow reporting that Howard was a Weinstein accomplice who dug up dirt on women accusing the fallen movie mogul, who is now serving a 23-year prison sentence for rape and sexual assault.

Howard famously threatened to sue the Pulitzer Prize-winning Farrow and his publisher over his best-selling book, “Catch & Kill,” which is about a journalist being threatened by systems of powerful men. (The phrase “catch and kill” refers to the practice of tabloid editors buying stories and then burying them, so they never see the light of day.)

Howard was also accused by Farrow and The Wall Street Journal of burying stories about President Trump with Farrow writing that the Australian tabloid executive shredded incriminating documents about Trump when he oversaw the Enquirer, which never published the documents.

In 2019, Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, accused Howard and American Media of extortion and blackmail after the Enquirer published an exposé about his extramarital affair and included racy texts to his now-girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, which forced Bezos to publicly announce his divorce. The Amazon founder made his accusations known in a lengthy written piece, where he said Howard threatened to print a nude photo of Bezos and Sanchez, unless the Bezos-owned Washington Post eased up on their “politically motivated” coverage of AMI.

American Media Inc. paid $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed an affair with Trump, to buy the exclusive rights to her story, which never ran. Following scrutiny for the McDougal hush money payout and fallout from the Bezos expose, AMI made a $100 million deal to sell the National Enquirer to James Cohen, the heir to Hudson News, which as of today, has still not closed. A source says the much-delayed deal has not been called off, and prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the buyer was still working through details, but with the economic crisis spurred by the pandemic,  business across all industries is on pause.

Howard’s departure comes as American Media announced company-wide salary cuts, in the wake of the coronavirus, though the publishing company was financially troubled long before the viral outbreak. All of the company’s titles, such as Us Weekly, cut employees’ salary by 23% on Apr. 1.

When announcing company-wide pay cuts last week, American Media Inc. released a statement to media, noting that no layoffs have occurred. “American Media is committed to doing everything we can during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure our staff maintain their employment and health benefits,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Prior to the coronavirus-prompted salary cuts at AMI, both RadarOnline and Men’s Journal underwent sweeping staff reductions with the men’s lifestyle magazine relocating to the west coast and laying off New York-based employees. Insiders say RadarOnline was hit the hardest, among the company’s layoffs.

American Media’s pay cuts come as the advertising business has been shaken by coronavirus’ impact, causing other publishing company to slash salaries, including Buzzfeed, which recently announced temporary cuts. The entire entertainment industry has been deeply affected by the pandemic with production shut down across television and film and deal-making halted in Hollywood, resulting in the talent agencies being particularly hit hard with layoffs and staff-wide salary reductions. Mega corporations, like Disney, have furloughed employees, as theme parks remain closed and chairman Bob Iger gave up his multi-million annual salary.

After a brief departure from American Media when he ran the celebrity site CelebBuzz, Howard had been back with AMI since 2013 and became editor-in-chief of RadarOnline, and later was named editor of the National Enquirer. During his rise at AMI, Howard was a key lieutenant to Pecker, who remains atop the publishing company.

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