National Enquirer Exec Proposed Plan To Secretly Pay R. Kelly $1M For TV Series
The former editor of the National Enquirer, now an executive with the tabloid's parent company, American Media Inc., pitched a plan to disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly about making a TV series and secretly paying him $1 million.
The Daily Beast reported that Dylan Howard was hoping to produce the documentary series for AMI and sell it to a network, but he knew that no one would touch the project if they realized it was lining Kelly’s pockets.
One of Howard’s conversations with Don Russell, who billed himself as Kelly’s manager, was tape-recorded, and The Daily Beast was able to verify the voices on the tape. During the exchange, Howard suggested “forming a shell company and using secret licensing agreements to hide payoffs to Kelly,” the news outlet reported, adding that AMI would market the series as “independent” of the singer.
“No network is going to buy or pay Mr. Kelly. They simply won’t do that. They are not going to take the public relations hit associated with doing business with him,” Howard explains to Russell in the recorded call. “Obviously, we would be embedded with you so it’s not as if it really is independent, but it has to be sold to the market as independent.”
He went on to explain how Kelly would turn a profit from the venture: “I license music from you. I license locations from you such as homes, et cetera. And that is how you get profit participation in such a production, because no network is even going to allow a production company’s books to show, on their books, that there is a money trail going to you.”
“So it would have to be a production company through a shell company through to whatever company is designated on your end for the licensing of locations, licensing of music, and other things we can creatively come up with,” Howard concluded.
Russell indicated that Kelly was interested in the deal. At the time, the singer was “jailed on state sex-crime charges and about to be indicted by federal authorities,” The Daily Beast noted.
Howard said in a written statement to the publication that his conversation with Kelly’s camp never moved beyond “general exploratory discussions.”
“During these conversations with them, I outlined myriad challenges, including the scope and seriousness of the allegations against Mr. Kelly, the necessity that the production be an objective portrayal, and the conceptual difficulties in the ‘fly-on-the-wall approach’ to Kelly’s legal defense,” Howard said.
“No final decisions were made between them and I on how a deal would be structured. Had a deal been pursued, I obviously would have made sure that any music used was licensed or sought location releases. The suggestion that, had a deal been pursued, I would have misrepresented the transaction to potential outlets is both pure speculation and false.”
Russell told the news outlet over the phone that he “and Dylan have never spoken in that capacity in regards to a docuseries or anything with R. Kelly.”
“I don’t know Dylan in any capacity of negotiating anything with him outside of shining a light on the fact that there are a lot of untruths in what they were about to be printing… and they backed down and didn’t run with it,” he added.
Russell ended the conversation with a threat: “I’m gonna tell you something. Publish the story. If I receive any negative backlash in business, I’m coming after you personally. Now you take that however you choose, my brother. Have a nice one.”
Kelly’s criminal defense attorney, Steven Greenberg, spoke with the singer about the matter during a visit to his jail this week, and relayed Kelly’s exact response to The Daily Beast: “This is literally what he said: ‘I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. I don’t have any fucking idea. I don’t know anything about it. People are always trying to do stuff—make money, cut a deal, and tell me they got this opportunity.’”
The 52-year-old Kelly is currently jailed in Chicago “awaiting trial on four separate federal and state prosecutions in Illinois, New York, and Minnesota.”
He has consistently denied allegations of pedophilia and physical abuse of women.