The New York Times details this morning the alleged newspaper extortion plot against Ron Burkle (left), the billionaire who is bidding to buy 12 Knight Ridder newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. On tapes made by Burkle’s legal team, New York Post Page Six gossip column freelancer Jared Paul Stern (right) is alleged to have told Burkle during a March 31 meeting, “We know how to destroy people … It’s what we do. We do it without creating liability. That’s our speciality.” The Times says Stern claimed on the tape that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman had already agreed to pay to get positive coverage in the gossip column. Stern has not been arrested and the investigation continues. [NY Daily News: Burkle told Murdoch in letter that he was “getting screwed” by Page Six] [NYT: How the Page Six column started and how it revolutionized mainstream journalism] (Stern photo from Getty images, Burkle from NYT)

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