Sarah Ellison reports in her forthcoming book, War at the Wall Street Journal, that Journal owner Rupert Murdoch paid Marcus Brauchli $6.4 million when Brauchli left the paper after a short stint as managing editor; he landed at the Washington Post as executive editor a few months later. No one is talking on the record, but from every indication the $6.4 million is accurate.
Why the big payday? Did Murdoch buy Brauchli’s silence? Not so, sources say. Murdoch wanted a new editor, so Brauchli resigned.
The big money came thanks to Washington über-lawyer Robert Barnett and his Williams & Connolly colleague Michael O’Connor, who made Murdoch pay the $6.4 million to buy out Brauchli’s contract.
But this raises another question: Did Barnett help Brauchli get the Post’s executive-editor job?
Barnett and his wife, CBS News correspondent Rita Braver—as well as the Williams & Connolly law firm—have been tight with the Graham family for decades; Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, niece of company CEO Donald Graham, was a lawyer at Williams & Connolly before joining the paper. Barnett and O’Connor did indeed negotiate Brauchli’s employment contract with the Post in 2008, but my sources say Barnett wasn’t the first to bring Brauchli to Weymouth’s attention.
That honor goes to veteran political editor Maralee Schwartz, who is back in the newsroom as an editor on contract after taking a buyout last year. Getting the boss his job apparently is a good career move.