Judge orders Philadelphia Inquirer’s ownership dissolved, sold by auction

Vice Chancellor Donald F. Parsons Friday ordered that Interstate General Media, the partnership that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, be dissolved and sold by an “English-style” auction among partners.

“The minimum bid for the auction shall be set at $77 million in cash,” Parsons writes in his ruling, which you can read below. The auction can be held no later than May 28, he ordered.

The decision “was a victory for George E. Norcross III, the co-owner who has argued for a private auction and has pledged to bid at least $77 million to win control of the company,” David Sell writes in the Inquirer.

“We are pleased that Vice Chancellor Parsons has agreed that the best way to end the IGM partnership is through a members only sale process, just as the original agreement stipulated,” IGM spokesperson Dan Fee said in a statement emailed to Poynter. “We are also pleased that he has agreed that the bidding process should be open and transparent and that it should be done quickly.”

Norcross and attorney Michael Chertoff outside a Philadelphia courtroom last November. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The court order follows a turbulent period even by the standards of Philadelphia media. In October 2013, the newspaper fired Editor Bill Marimow. Three days later, two of the newspaper’s owners sued the company and Hall, saying they weren’t authorized to fire Marimow. Norcross filed a countersuit, saying in a press release that fellow owner Lewis Katz “repeatedly violated” his pledge not to interfere with the newsroom.

In November, a judge in Philadelphia ordered Marimow must get his job back. The owners’ competing claims mutated into an existential court battle whose beginnings you can read about here. (Steve Volk, who wrote that story, announced he was retiring from covering Philly media after that article: “It’s 11 years of watching the bridge of the Enterprise shake while the cast runs from one side of the screen of the other,” he said.)

Here’s Parsons’ order:

Order to break up Inquirer ownership

In happier days, Katz and Norcross did an interview with Poynter, announcing they were bringing back Marimow. In the interview, Katz identified the conditions for bringing the newspapers back:

“First, you build employee morale,” said Katz. “You get a team going, the team buys into the business model or recommends changes. Secondly, you have patient capital so the banks don’t get in the way. Third, you need luck. Luck that your business model doesn’t face terrible economic times or terrible high interest times.”

Related: Daniel Denvir wrote about the battle over Philly.com.

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  • canardnoir

    They’ll appeal this heavy-handed jurist’s order and eventually find their way into federal court where it will take years to reach an equitable decision!

    Besides, monopolies are not that easily broken and/or reorganized, because money is power.