Ever since the Tiger Woods story broke the last month, there have been rumors and tales of a strange cover-up that had happened in 2007 involving the golfing great and two American Media Inc. publications, the National Enquirer and Men’s Fitness.
The story, meticulously chronicled on Friday by a handful of WSJ reporters, goes like this: In the summer of 2007, Woods cut an unusual deal with American Media. He agreed to the cover shot and photo spread in Men’s Fitness, in return for the National Enquirer squelching a story and photographs purportedly showing Woods in a liaison with a woman who wasn’t his wife. At the center of the deal between Woods and American Media, the Los Angeles-based 15-lawyer law firm Lavely & Singer, which has developed a reputation as perhaps the go-to law firm for celebs in squabbles with the media.
The background is interesting. According to the Journal:
The . . . episode began with an encounter in the late winter or early spring of 2007 in a church parking lot near Mr. Woods’s home in Windermere, Fla., according to the people with direct knowledge of the situation. A person working on behalf of the National Enquirer. . . tailed Mr. Woods to the empty parking lot, these people said. Hidden from view, the photographer snapped photographs of the married Mr. Woods meeting a woman in his car. After the encounter, the photographer followed Mr. Woods to a small airport, where the golfer got on a private jet and took off, those people said. . . .
The Enquirer notified Mr. Woods’s representatives and the woman in the photograph that the publication had photographic evidence of the golfer having an affair and was ready to expose the encounter. . . .
Within hours, representatives of Mr. Woods. . . made an offer: If the Enquirer dropped the story, Mr. Woods would sit for an elaborate interview for sister publication Men’s Fitness. . . .
Enter Lavely & Singer. After weeks of discussion, the Lavely lawyers and representatives from American Media hammered out a contract detailing guidelines for the interview and the photo shoot, as well as the guarantee that the story of Woods’s rendezvous in the church parking lot wouldn’t be printed, according to a person who has seen the document.