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Documents Confirm No Secret Deal Ended Seattle JOA Conflict

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Documents Confirm No Secret Deal Ended Seattle JOA Conflict

Article excerpt

The multimillion-dollar payments that ended the litigation between the dailies in the Seattle joint operating agreement (JOA) were not accompanied by a secret deal to fold the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, newly disclosed documents show.

When the P-I and The Seattle Times last April settled their suits and counter-suits over whether the Blethen family-controlled Seattle Times Co. had the right to force an end to the JOA, a citizens group said it suspected the settlement included a secret agreement by the P-I to shut down after a few years.

That has been stoutly denied by both newspapers, and now documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division confirm the papers were telling the truth. The documents were first reported by Seattle Times business reporter Eric Pryne, who obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Litigation between the estranged partners began in 2003 when the P-I went to court saying the Times was about to trigger a clause in the JOA that would force an end to the agreement, or the folding of the P-I, or both. The clause could be triggered if the partnership had three consecutive years of financial losses.

Hearst Corp., the P-I's owner, sued, alleging the Times, which owns all the production and distribution operations, had long undermined the P-I. For its part, the Times Co. maintained the P-I's underperformance was bleeding it financially, and putting the company's viability at risk. …

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