Philadelphia Inquirer Owners Clash Over State for Suits

Owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who can’t agree on the firing of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Bill Marimow, must wait for a judge’s decision on where to hear their lawsuits over the dispute as they disagree on the venue as well.

Two members of Inquirer owner Interstate General Media LLC sued the company and its publisher in state court in Philadelphia on Oct. 10. Another owner filed a complaint accusing his partners of interference a week later in Delaware Chancery Court. Lawyers for Interstate, publisher Robert Hall and co-owner George Norcross all argued today that the litigation belongs in Delaware, where the partnership was incorporated.

The newspaper’s owners “chose Delaware knowing full well that the principal asset was operated and managed in Philadelphia,” Robert Heim, an attorney for Norcross, told Judge Patricia McInerney during a hearing today in Philadelphia. “They chose to have Delaware law apply to any disputes among them.”

McInerney took the arguments under advisement and didn’t indicate when she would rule in the case. She met with Norcross and co-owner Lewis Katz privately in chambers for about 40 minutes after the hearing concluded.

Newsroom Personnel

Katz, a former owner of the New Jersey Nets, and partner H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a Pennsylvania philanthropist, sued alleging Marimow, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was wrongfully fired without approval of the entire partnership. Norcross’s lawyers contend in their countersuit that Katz didn’t have the right to oversee newsroom personnel decisions.

It’s up to the judge’s discretion where the case should be heard, Collins J. Seitz, an attorney for Katz, argued.

“What could be more compelling than a Philadelphia Inquirer case be decided in Philadelphia?” Seitz told McInerney.

The suit is the latest chapter in the battle between Katz and Norcross over the direction of the Inquirer, the U.S.’s 18th-largest newspaper by circulation, according to a 2012 study by USA Today. Both were part of an investor group that bought the newspaper and its sister publication, the Philadelphia Daily News, in April 2012 for $55 million. The newspapers’ parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

The Delaware case is General American Holdings Inc. v Intertrust GCN LP, CA9013, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington). The Pennsylvania case is Intertrust GCN LP v. Interstate General Media LLC, 131000654, Court of Common Pleas Philadelphia County (Philadelphia)

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