News Corp., which has been fighting lawsuits alleging unfair competition in its business of supermarket promotions, doesn’t have to turn over videos of sales meetings to a former rival, a judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson in Trenton, New Jersey, denied a request by Floorgraphics Inc. to see the videos, which the company alleged might show anticompetitive behavior, according to court filings. The judge also ruled that News Corp. was entitled to enforce an earlier settlement reached with Floorgraphics in 2009, when it bought the company’s contracts for $29.5 million, according to the filings.
“We’re happy with the result,” Lee Abrams, a lawyer for News Corp.’s News America Marketing unit, said today in a phone interview.
News Corp., led by Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, agreed in February to pay $500 million to Valassis Communications Inc. to settle claims that its tactics caused $1.5 billion in damages to the supermarket coupon company. Floorgraphics Executive Vice President George Rebh said in a March 29 affidavit that he wanted to renew his fight with News Corp. after reading how much it had paid Valassis.
Rebh said today in a phone interview that he hasn’t decided whether to appeal Thompson’s May 12 ruling.
New York-based News Corp.’s News America Marketing unit, which showed a $414 million operating loss including the Valassis payment for the quarter ended Dec. 31, faces separate claims by Insignia Systems Inc. at a trial scheduled for December. The Minneapolis-based marketer of in-store promotions seeks unspecified damages from its rival.
Lawyers for Insignia have 20 hours of videotaped sales meetings at News America Marketing “that are quite powerful in terms of their mentality with respect to competition,” Insignia Chief Executive Officer Scott Drill said in an interview last month.
Murdoch may have spent more than the projected earnings of News Corp.’s movie “Avatar,” the world’s top-grossing film, to settle Valassis’s lawsuits.
News Corp. will make $350 million to $400 million in operating income from “Avatar,” including revenue from pay television and DVD sales, two people with knowledge of its financial performance and projections said in March. The sum represents News Corp.’s share of about 40 percent of as much as $1 billion that the film is expected to earn, the people said.
The cases are Insignia Systems Inc. v. News America Marketing In-Store Inc., 04-cv-04213, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (Minneapolis) and Floorgraphics Inc. v. News America Marketing In-Store Services Inc., 04-cv-03500, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).