July 16, 2024

Citizen Kushner

A seraphic figure with neatly sculptured chestnut brown hair and fair skin, the young publisher worked his way through a stream of approaching guests with business-like efficiency. In a corner stood a white backdrop covered in company logos. A velvet rope sat unused nearby.

“Isn’t this fun and glamorous,” Mr. Kushner said, his wry tone and boyish grin suggesting that he found the scene around him neither.

If you knew anything about Jared Kushner five years ago, it was probably that he was the oldest son of Charles Kushner, a New Jersey real estate developer who had spent time in prison for orchestrating one of the more memorable get-even schemes perpetrated in the name of sibling rivalry. He had hired a prostitute to entrap his brother-in-law and captured their encounter on hidden camera to show his sister.

After watching his father’s case play out in the media, with articles full of unflattering, anonymous leaks, Mr. Kushner did the one thing he could do to gain a modicum of control over the press: he bought his way in, paying about $10 million for The Observer, a newspaper read obsessively by New York’s business, political and cultural elite.

He was 25 at the time.

Since then Mr. Kushner has managed The Observer through a recession that left the newspaper business in tatters. He has turned over virtually the entire staff — including three editors in chief in two years — while trying to shift to a business model centered on real estate and digital advertising dollars.

If it was a bad time to buy a newspaper, it was arguably a worse time to be doubling down on real estate. He added to his family’s holdings, helping Kushner Companies acquire one of the city’s better known properties, the 666 Fifth Avenue office towers, at the height of the market.

While these moves have elevated his profile in the city, he has warily embraced his place in the spotlight. He is far from the brash, publicity seeking dynamo one might expect to see in someone who managed to buy a New York newspaper at a tender age. He seems uninterested in using the paper to further political ambitions. Unlike Mort Zuckerman, another real estate mogul who moved into the media business by acquiring The Atlantic, U.S. News World Report and The Daily News in New York and aggressively embraced the platform it afforded, you won’t see Mr. Kushner on “Meet the Press.”

In other ways he has made the most of his new visibility. He married one of the most famous young women in New York, Ivanka Trump. The couple vacations on Rupert Murdoch’s 184-foot sailboat and have appeared as themselves on the CW series “Gossip Girl.”

Yet every Friday night, you’ll find Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump at home in their Park Avenue apartment marking the Sabbath with dishes like Moroccan meat pie and sweet pea soup that Ivanka, a novice cook, prepares herself. (“I think he humors me,” Ms. Trump, 29, said of her husband’s enthusiastic reviews.)

Mr. Kushner, who saw at a young age how the media glare can scald, maintains he wants to stay out of it. “I quickly learned that there really wasn’t much benefit to being out there,” he said in a recent interview.

But friends of Mr. Kushner say it was more than just seeing potential in an undervalued media property that drew him to the salmon-colored weekly.

“He was definitely looking to make a reputation for himself quickly, and the newspaper was the opportunity that was there to be had,” said Bob Sommer, who worked as one of The Observer’s top business executives from 2007 to 2009.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have an impact,” Mr. Kushner said of his purchase. “When I bought the paper I had no idea the level of power and influence it had. I really bought the paper because I saw it as a great brand.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 24, 2011

An earlier version of this article described incompletely the circumstances surrounding Mr. Pope’s exit from the New York Observer.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d1831adbb63fd4771e199660f7cca670

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