Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Shaky Truce: Court Affirms Right of Hirschfeld to Manage the New York Post Pending Purchase

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Shaky Truce: Court Affirms Right of Hirschfeld to Manage the New York Post Pending Purchase

Article excerpt

THE MAN WHO controls the New York Post fashioned a shaky court-approved truce with its editor, but while the pact assured some stability for a few weeks, it did not end the turmoil at the defiant tabloid.

In a late development, Rupert Murdoch, former Post owner and chairman of Australia-based News Corp., has made overtures about buying back the bankrupt paper.

In a hearing March 19, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Francis Conrad affirmed the right of parking garage and health club magnate Abe Hirschfeld to manage the Post pending a purchase agreement.

He said the transfer of management control, and purchase agreement, from bankrupt real estate developer Peter Kalikow to Hirschfeld was "a done deal."

Responding to new proposals from rejected bidder Steven Hoffenberg, and to pleas to remove Hirschfeld, Conrad said any offers for the Post would have to go through Hirschfeld, who is managing the paper on a one-year contract.

At the same time, Conrad moved to quell the chaos that engulfed the Post when Hirschfeld fired editor Pete Hamill. That chaos, played out in the newspapers and on television, included nearly a complete edition of the Post attacking Hirschfeld as a "nut" and another whose Page One consisted of an open letter pleading with Conrad to remove Hirschfeld in order to save the paper.

After a meeting in his chambers, Conrad announced an agreement calling for Hirschfeld to reinstate Hamill and to add the remaining $1 million of his $3 million infusion into the Post-- enough to keep it in business for a couple of weeks.

The paper, which one executive said is taking in $1.2 million a week while costing $1.5 million, is already in debt to suppliers, including about $2 million for newsprint.

In return for coming back, the highly regarded Hamill, who Hirschfeld is personally guaranteeing to pay nearly $2,000 a day until a final hearing April 2, got a big kiss from his boss. But the truce did not yield peace.

On March 22, Hamill refused to work in the Post's newsroom and managed the paper from a seat in a nearby diner. It was a one-day protest of Hirschfeld's refusal to rehire four key editorial employees: editorial page editor Eric Breindel, state editor Fredric Dicker, City Hall bureau chief David Seifman and investigations editor Jack Newfield.

They kept working anyway, prompting Hirschfeld to ban them from the Post's building. …

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