Billionaire Burkle is my kind of newspaper tycoon

If you haven’t been following the saga of the Knight Ridder orphans, the 12 newspapers back up for sale after being purchased by McClatchy, you’re missing a great show.

Early last week, the LA Times reported that the bid backed by billionaire Ron Burkle might be the frontrunner in the race to buy some or all of the 12 papers. Burkle’s private equity firm, Yucaipa Companies, is putting up the cash behind the Newspaper Guild’s bid. So far, so good. Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson are both on the board of directors of Yucaipa. Sounds like fun.

It starts to get interesting when you look at what the Peninsula Press Club has been pointing to for weeks: Burkle has battled to seal some public records, most notably those related to his own divorce. Funny how that works. I, for one, welcome a little bit of salaciousness to this story.

But wait… there’s more. Okay, let’s just look right past the Dubai connection and get to the real meat of this story: New York Post Page Six gossip columnist Jared Paul Stern allegedly tried to squeeze Burkle for $100,000 plus $10,000 a year, as long as Stern didn’t write anything negative about him.

See Editor & Publisher for both sides of the story, plus a full platter of links at Romenesko.

Personally, I love it. It’s far more likely to grab headlines than…well…stories about the semi-failing business model of newspapers.  Or the future of newspapers. Funny how that works.

[Full disclosure: I might want to work for a newspaper someday…]