Magazine article Editor & Publisher

UPDATE: Ridder Must Step Down as Publisher

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

UPDATE: Ridder Must Step Down as Publisher

Article excerpt

Almost seven months after Par Ridder stepped into the role as publisher of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, a Minnesota district judge ruled that he must leave the paper.

Ramsey County Court Judge David C. Higgs said in a ruling released this morning that Ridder must vacate his position for one year starting today. Chris Harte, chairman of the Star Tribune, will serve as interim publisher.

Calls placed to the Star Tribune and the attorneys for both the defendants and plaintiffs were not immediately returned.

In a statement from Harte, he wrote that the ruling was unexpected and that they will continue to evaluate their legal options. (A full copy of his statement is below).

Higgs also ruled that the Star Tribune couldn't solicit employment with any manager or senior executive at the Pioneer Press until April 13, 2008. The Pioneer Press is entitled to an award of attorney's fees and other costs related to the trial. Dean Singleton, MediaNews Group's CEO and owner of the Pioneer Press, estimates his company's legal fees to date are approaching $5 million.

Singleton told E&P that he was happy with the ruling but didn't want to see it play out in a courtroom: "I was disappointed we had to go to court to get the Star Tribune and its leadership and ownership to differentiate what is right and wrong. But we tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue out of court. I'm happy the court has stepped in."

The ruling marks the end of a summer-long saga between two rival newspapers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune. Ridder served as the publisher of the Pioneer Press for three years before he was approached by Avista Capital Partners to head the Star Tribune in March.

Ridder accepted the position and offered jobs to Pioneer Press employees Jennifer Parratt and Kevin Desmond. Before he went to Minneapolis, Ridder admitted to downloading sensitive advertising and financial data that he brought to the Star Tribune.

Pioneer Press owner MediaNews Group sued Ridder, Avista, Parratt, Desmond, and other Star Tribune executives alleging the violation of non-compete agreements and the theft of proprietary information.

In his ruling, Higgs barred Ridder from working at the Minneapolis paper because Ridder misappropriated confidential Pioneer Press data. Higgs wrote that during the three-day hearing at the end of June, Ridder testified that he copied information from his hard drive and brought it the Star Tribune, then shared it with key Star Tribune executives. …

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