More scandal in New York as restaurateur's gift to gossip editor is revealed

A New York restaurateur received 15 mentions in the New York Post’s influential gossip column after giving the page’s editor a $1,000 Christmas present, the New York Times reported this weekend.

After Nello Ballan gave to Page Six editor Richard Johnson the gift in December 1997, his restaurants in New York and the Hamptons, the resort outside the city, received almost 200 mentions in the tabloid.

After the gift to Johnson was revealed, the Post’s editor-in-chief, Col Allan, labelled it a ‘grave mistake’and said the paper now has a strict policy prohibiting such gifts.

In a new statement, following the New York Times’ disclosure, the Allan reiterated that there was never any question of quid pro quo between the paper and Ballan.

In fact, a spokesman for the Post pointed out, the restaurateur has also over the years received ‘negative attention’in the Post, including a story about a domestic dispute with his girlfriend which led to his arrest on a change of domestic assault. In that story the Post described Ballan as a ” Romanian roughneck”, the Times reported.

The New York Times quoted one New York publicity agent who represents several restaurants as saying ‘That’s a lot of bang for the buck”, especially as a full-page advertisement in The Post’s dining and restaurant section can cost over $30,000.

Scandal has engulfed the Post’s gossip page since last year, when Jared Paul Stern, a freelance gossip writer, was dropped by the tabloid after he allegedly tried to shake down a wealthy California businessman on the promise of keeping negative stories about him out of Page Six.

Stern first revealed Ballan’s gift and other ‘ethical lapses’at the Post in an affidavit accompanying a lawsuit he has threatened against the paper. The affidavit was prepared by a former Page Six colleague, Ian Spiegelman, who was also fired from the Post after being accused of writing a homophobic memo.

Spiegelman claimed that Johnson was not the only one to receive financial gifts from the restaurateur. The paper denies Spiegelman’s claim that at least two others also received $1,000 in 1997.

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