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Pandit and Willumstad to Share the Ultimate Power?

FINANCE • The newest Citigroup rumors suggest a "tag team at the top": Financial whiz Vikram Pandit will take over as CEO, while the more socially astute Robert Willumstad handles chairman duties. We're just not sure "tag team" means the same thing for us as it does the Times? [DealBook/NYT] • Morgan Stanley issued a full recession alert for the U.S. economy today in the oh-so-subtly titled "Recession Coming." Meanwhile, a recent Journal poll of top economists puts the risk of recession at 38 percent. [Telegraph, WSJ] • Thirtysomething Blackstone real-estate guru Jonathan Gray is getting rather comfortable in the top tier of the young establishment. [DealBook/NYT]

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Bill Keller: Unleashed

MEDIA • Bill Keller on Rupert Murdoch: "I don't know Rupert Murdoch, he is a combative 76-year-old newspaper guy with a tabloid soul and more money than God. With those resources at this stage it looks like he will do whatever the hell he wants to do. I don't think he is going to be constrained by some strategic planning consultant telling him what he can do. That makes him very hard to predict." [Media Mob/NYO] • Meanwhile, the Times gave Sam Tanenhaus still more power, expanding his purview beyond the Book Review to the halcyon halls of "Week in Review." It's hard to tell if this is Keller's endorsement of Tanenhaus's talents or just an absurd overselling of some serious cost savings. [Radar] • Jon Stewart shows he's a real mensch and begins paying his staff just like all the other late-night hosts (Even though Stewart is paid far less himself.) Daily Show staffers never even missed a check. [Mixed Media/Portfolio]

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Gucci Would Prefer a More Flattering Cut

FASHION • The Gucci family is up in arms over Ridley Scott’s biopic. They fear he’ll focus on the family scandals. You know, instead of making a movie about all the boring stuff. [British Vogue] • Helmut Lang is opening a pop-up shop in the meatpacking district. Just what we need, another fabulous place to spend our money while we are drunk. [Fashion Informer] • Kaiser Karl rocked the U.K. with a Chanel fashion show. [WWD]

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Karl Rove to Finally Profit From Professional Secret-Keeping

MEDIA • Here come the NBC News pay cuts: Jeff Zucker plans to slash anywhere between $20 and $40 million, including an entire level of MSNBC management. And thanks to the writers' strike and fears of recession, future cuts may only get worse. [NYP] • Karl Rove may be offered $3 million for a memoir, in which we may find out how much he got in exchange for his soul. [NYP] • At least one person thinks the press did a heckuva job in reporting the lead-up to the Iraq war — former top White House communications adviser Dan Bartlett. [NYO]

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For Viacom Freelancers, Neither Happiness Nor Health for Christmas

MEDIA • Viacom screws over its army of freelancers by rolling back benefit programs drastically. Merry Christmas! [MixedMedia/Portfolio] • The Washington Post is sending veteran reporter and inveterate partier Keith Richburg to town to take over the paper's New York bureau. He's well known for throwing parties with, get this, as many as 30 people! Will Manhattan will be able to handle it? [NYO] • No holiday party at Time Inc. or the New York Times. Suckas! [Radar]

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Lies and the Lying Arabs Who Tell Them

MEDIAThe New Republic pulled back on its long-embattled "Baghdad Diarist" series, admitting they could no longer stand behind the author, an army private serving in Iraq. Meanwhile, The National Review suffered its own Middle Eastern credibility scandal and struck back in a novel way: "As one of our sources put it: 'The Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate about enemies is alive and well among pro-American Lebanese Christians as much as it is with the likes of Hamas.'" Yikes. [NYT Mixed Media/Portfolio] • Big layoffs ahead at NBC News? "There are going to be firings very soon — everybody is terrified," according to a "former network insider," who claims tens of millions in cuts will happen in the next two weeks. [Jossip] • New NBC programming honcho Ben Silverman is looking to clear up a conflict of interest and cash in on his old production company, which Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter to Rupe, is buying for around $200 million. Not bad for a guy who built his career on stealing foreign shows like The Office and Ugly Betty and then repackaging them for the U.S. [NYP]

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Jon Stewart Suddenly Not Looking Like the Nice Guy

MEDIA • Is Jon Stewart really the only late-night host not currently covering the salaries of his laid-off, non-striking employees? [Mixed Media/Portfolio] • The key lines from the n+1 essay that helped convinced Choire Sicha and Emily Gould to quit: "The purpose of Gawker Media was always to improve on the print publishing business model. It was never, as the content of Gawker sometimes seemed to suggest, to produce critiques of the waste that model created. The content at Gawker, like most Condé Nast titles, is a service to the advertisers. … You could say that as Gawker Media grew, from Gawker's success, Gawker outlived the conditions for its existence." Joshua David Stein announced his own departure, due mostly to personal loyalty, on Saturday. [n+1, Media Mob/NYO] • Meanwhile, Portfolio's Jeff Bercovici proves that Condé and Gawker really are at the same level: "By the way, those who feel wronged by Gawker over the years can take some satisfaction in the uniquely terrible timing of the walkout for Denton, who is pumped full of painkillers after a recent back injury. Last week, the pain became so intense he needed an ambulance to get to the hospital. As he was being loaded into the ambulance, he says, his greatest fear was that he would be spotted by someone from Gawker, which is headquartered just down the block from his home." [Mixed Media/Portfolio]

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John Mack Gives Zoe Cruz the Heave-ho

FINANCE • John Mack decided to can Zoe Cruz just three weeks after naming her as a strong potential successor at Morgan Stanley. Two execs, Walid Chammah and James Gorman, will take Cruz's place as overseeing the firm's trading and risk operations. [NYT] • Eddie Lampert has lost quite a bit of his luster: The star investor sometimes mentioned as the heir to Warren Buffett lost millions on a big investment in Citigroup, and the earnings debacle at Sears is only making things worse. [Deal Journal/WSJ] • A small local council in Scotland managed to trump the Donald's $2 billion plan to build "the world's greatest golf course." It was just never clear on where Trump's hair would fit in the course. [NYP]

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Did ‘The New Yorker’ Rip One of Its Cartoons Off ‘The Far Side’?

MEDIA • OMG, plagiarism in The New Yorker's cartoon issue? [Gelf] • Washington Post chief Don Graham has 300 Facebook friends. Poke away! [Washingtonian] • Fox 9's license is up for renewal, and a bunch of incensed New Jerseyans are fighting the station for failing to live up to its Jersey-side obligations. After all, the channel is based out of Secaucus but bills itself as "My9 New York." [NYT]

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Howard Stern Thinks Imus Will Make You Hurl

MEDIA • Carson Daly is going scab! Good thing he doesn't have any viewers, and unlike Ellen isn't actually a member of the Writers Guild. [NYT] • Howard Stern gets all collegiate about Don Imus's return: "At this point, I don't think he's very relevant. People will tune out within a week. I defy you to listen. See how long you can keep listening. Time it. You'll throw up. You'll get sick. You'll die." [AP via Mixed Media/Portfolio] • Knicks reporters — even bigger whiners than regular reporters. Daily News vet Frank Isola: "It used to be fun here. Now, there are some nights when you're trying to talk your boss out of sending you here and maybe lie and tell him you're sick or something." [NYO]

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Ben Bradlee Believes in Rupert Murdoch

MEDIA • Legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee on Rupe's play for the Journal: "I think Murdoch is a better journalist than the rest of you do. … Well, I think because he's smart, and he's not going to fill it up with pussy stories. And he's going to get good reporters. I think he does not want to fail on this." [Radar] • Ted Kennedy sold his memoir to Grand Central Publishing for $8 million, but the deal first has to be cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee. Something tells us the chapter on Chappaquiddick won't be too long. [NYT] • The Times bagged their first refugee from the Journal, though it's not a very big catch: John Harwood, the veteran CNBC Washington correspondent and occasional contributor to the Journal, will now take his part-time work to the Gray Lady. [NYO]

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Hillary Tries to Have It Both Ways With Rupert

MEDIA • Today's negotiations between the Hollywood writers and producers, who some say have already struck a deal, reportedly will be held in an "undisclosed location." We always knew Cheney would come to the rescue! [HR] • German Vanity Fair is being sued for an interview with an infamous neo-Nazi who denied the Holocaust. [Jerusalem Post via HuffPo] • Rift in the house of Murdoch? Rupe complains that his son James can't dumb down the news to his father's tough standards. Meanwhile, a savvy voter in Iowa pressed Clinton on her Murdoch connections, and the senator, no surprise, tried to have it both ways. [FT via Mixed Media/Portfolio, The Caucus/NYT]

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Judith Regan: At What Price, America?

MEDIA • Jeff Bercovici wants to know: "What's Regan's price for selling out her country?" After all, if Regan's info on Giuliani is that damaging, shouldn't she divulge it in any case, no matter how much Uncle Murdoch is willing to offer? [Mixed Media/Portfolio] • Dan Rather's lawyers are getting fed up with CBS nondisclosure agreements. "Who do these guys think they are? The National Security Agency?" [NYO] • Intrepid Observer reporter spends 45 minutes staring through a window just to see who showed up to a lame Times party. Now that's journalism! [Media Mob/NYO]

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Kanye West and His ‘Bazaar’ Angel Mural

MEDIA • Kanye West says Harper's Bazaar "pissed me off" when they reported the rap star's L.A. home features a giant mural of himself with angels. "That made me so mad. Because who would want to hang out with a guy with an 8-foot picture of an angel of himself?" Too bad Harper's got almost every detail right, and Kanye is indeed featured in the painting. [WWD] • CBS News writers voted to authorize their own strike. Watch out, Katie Couric! [NYT] • Did Star really pull on an online poll because Ron Burkle, the billionaire investor the mag flattered with a recent photo spread, wasn't doing well enough? Star claims they're just planning to publish the results in the next issue — plenty of time to stuff the ballot box. [Mixed Media/Portfolio]

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Stan O'Neal Disinvited to the Literal and Figurative Party

FINANCE • Stan O'Neal wasn't invited to a big Merrill Lynch reunion party thrown by Evelyn Juan, the son of a Merrill founder. Guess Stan will just have to drink himself to sleep in his board-provided office. [DealBreaker] • Goldman's unbelievable success is forcing all the other top banks to dig deep into the honey pot and pay out a record-setting $38 billion in bonuses, despite losing $74 billion in market value. Goldman, of course, accounts for almost half of the bonus pool. Let's just say it's good to be Goldman. [Deal Journal/WSJ, Bloomberg] • Steve Schwarzman spared no expense for his son's wedding and the tab ran to $150,000, including a $20,000 BBQ supper, $7,000 for drinks, and $50,000 to rent an entire hotel and keep the riffraff out. Still pales in comparison to Schwarzman's $3 million birthday bash. [NYP]

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Rove, Regan and Rather: Crazy? Or Crazy Like Foxes?

MEDIA • How did Judith Regan's high-level lawyers let her bat-shit-crazy legal complaint get through? Oh that's right, she's Judith Regan. [Legal Pad/Fortune] • CBS finally got around to filing their motion to dismiss Dan Rather's suit. The network claims they are "mystified" by Rather's "bizarre allegations," and that the lawsuit amounts to a "regrettable attempt by plaintiff Dan Rather to remain in the public eye, and to settle old scores and perceived slights, based on an array of far-fetched allegations." [NYO] • Karl Rove signed on to become a regular contributor to Newsweek. Maybe they should consider changing their slogan to "fair and balanced"? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]

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The Union Club Is Like an Adult Frat, But Not in a Fun, ‘Old-School’ Way

MEDIA • Yesterday at the Union Club, reporters specifically invited by the Manhattan Institute to hear Mayor Bloomberg and Jeb Bush speak were instructed to leave the room before the speeches began. "The police are right outside," one club worker told them. "If you don't leave, we're going to call them in." You have to wonder if this was merely an administrative fumble, or the old-guy version of that frat-party game where dudes invite fat chicks to parties so they can make fun of them. [NYS, NYO] • However! The Manhattan Institute has since apologized to the press for the Union Club's behavior, and they put Bush's remarks online. It's only audio, though, we wonder why? We can only assume it's because at the Union Club, all speeches are done naked. [Manhattan Institute via NYO] • Janice Min: "It's off-putting when a junior employee tells you they want to be editor in chief." Instead, just try to make yourself indispensable: "I was the easy solution. Make yourself the easy solution." Or just make yourself easy. [WWD]

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Bloomberg's Baby Problems: They Just Keep Popping Out

FINANCE • Another woman joined the federal discrimination lawsuit against Bloomberg LP. After her first child in 2005, her pay fell and her colleagues turned into sharks. One supervisor even asked, "What is this, your third baby?" [NYT] • More of the same on the Street: Bank of America wrote down $3 billion, Bear Stearns $1.2 billion, and British bank HSBC took the cake with $3.4 billion, largely due to U.S. mortgage weaknesses. Meanwhile, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein laughed in everyone's face, predicting no more write-downs (not that they lost much in the first place) at the Teflon bank. [NYP, NYT, NYT, DealBreaker] • Is the credit crunch just like Enron all over again? So says Bethany McLean, the reporter who first broke Ken Lay's fraud wide open. [Fortune]

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Prince Alwaleed Indulges in a Little Retail Therapy

FINANCE • Citigroup's biggest shareholder, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, unwound from the loss of $4.6 billion and the firing of Chuck Prince by adding an A380, the largest passenger airplane in the world, to his collection of private jets. The plane, which seats 525, and includes and several bedrooms, ballrooms, and a private theater, cost upwards of $319 million. We bet he feels better now. [NYP, NYT] • Steve Schwarzman married off his son Edward, a corporate lawyer at Skadden, to Ellen Zajac, a corporate lawyer at Thacher Proffitt. Maybe together they can save Blackstone from going down the tubes — the firm is down 25 percent since going public back in June. [NYT, NYP] • Worried about a run on the bank? Here’s how to know which accounts are insured, and how much you’ll get back. [MarketBeat/WSJ]

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Al Gore: Cashing In on His Big Year

FINANCE • Al Gore, venture capitalist? The Nobel laureate and Apple board member is taking a hands-on role at Kleiner Perkins, the leading Silicon Valley venture firm. His goal: Save the world. And annoy GE's Jeff Immelt as much as possible. [Fortune] • Harvard picked Robert S. Kaplan, a former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman, as the new steward for the $35 billion endowment. Something tells us his kids won't have any trouble getting in. [Reuters via NYT] • A few management consultants with nothing better to do gave the Times its newest buzzword: CEO version 3.0. With the departures of Stan O'Neal, Chuck Prince, and Richard Parsons, it's now time for leaders "who can assemble a team that functions as smoothly as a jazz sextet." Because, as James Cayne showed, the old CEOs were way too bebop. [NYT]

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