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ink-stained wretches

Did Kushner Urge Editor to Take Out a Hit on Jersey Paper?

Jared Kushner has quickly acquired all the trappings of a Manhattan power player — the real estate, the bold-faced wife, and the vanity publication. But he can't quite seem to leave New Jersey behind. The long-running Kushner family beef with the New Jersey Star-Ledger seems to have played a role in New York Observer editor Tom McGeveran's decision to quit last week. McGeveran cited a side project (a "publication," he told us) as the reason for his departure. But Observer staffers tell us that Kushner — a hands-on publisher who clashed with previous editor Peter Kaplan — wanted to go after the Star-Ledger, leading to a blowup that tipped McGeveran over the edge.

The Kushner family's history with the Star-Ledger is tortuous. It was the gleeful paper of record during the political-donation scandal that eventually put Charles Kushner, Jared's dad, in prison five years ago. This year, it has closely tracked the trial of Charles's brother-in-law and business partner, Richard Stadtmauer, for tax fraud. The Star-Ledger is also a competitor to Kushner's website, PolitickerNJ.com, and the young Kushner even considered buying it last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

McGeveran became the Observer editor under difficult conditions — immediate layoffs, a bare-bones budget, and an interim title. Kushner interviewed candidates throughout his tenure, and the young publisher also tried at least once to mandate coverage, sources say. Last month Kushner urged McGeveran to write a hit piece on the struggling Star-Ledger. The story that resulted, by John Koblin, evenhandedly detailed the troubles in print journalism statewide, featuring the Star-Ledger's woes prominently. "What came back was not satisfactory to Jared," said an Observer source; he wanted more blood. The ensuing conflict offended McGeveran's ethics, according to people who know him — "It was the straw that broke the camel's back," said another co-worker.

Kushner's reps at Rubenstein PR wouldn't comment on the fracas, but McGeveran denied to us that it ever happened. "Jared's and my relationship as editor and publisher was a success from my point of view," he said. Staffers at the paper are optimistic about well-known rumored replacements who would be able to stand up to any bullying from the Kushner family. Until Ivanka gets involved, of course, and then all bets are off ...

Related: Can 'Observer' Owner Jared Kushner Carry the Ambition for Himself and His Disgraced Father? [NYM]

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Photo: Patrick McMullan