Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Family Court

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Family Court

Article excerpt

BARRY H. SCRIPPS, once heir-apparent to Scripps League News papers, is suing his mother and adoptive father over the sale of the chain last July to Pulitzer Publishing Co.

in a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts Superior Court, Barry Scripps, 51, alleges 70-year-old mother, Betty, "implemented a wrongful scheme" to sell Scripps League and "unlawfully induced" Barry's 87-year-old father, Edward W Scripps, to ``breach their lifelong promises to Barry to retain the ownership of Scripps League in the family and ultimately turn over its management and control to Barry."

Edward W Scripps - who was co-founder of the chain and its chairman, president, chief executive officer and treasurer at the time of the sale to Pulitzer - is named as a defendant, as is Pulitzer Community Newspapers Inc., the Pulitzer unit that now includes Scripps League's 16 dailies and 30 non-dailies, shoppers and niche publications. Pulitzer paid $214 million cash for Scripps League.

The lawsuit alleges Edward W Scripps - referred to as "Ed" throughout the suit - repeatedly promised Barry that Scripps League would remain in the family and Barry would some day run the company.

Barry also contends in the lawsuit that he was given a promise of lifelong employment within Scripps League - a promise the lawsuit claims is legally binding on new owner Pulitzer.

However, the thrust of the 18-page lawsuit - and most of its harshest language - is aimed at Barry's mother, Betty.

"To implement her scheme to sell Scripps League," the lawsuit states, "Betty took advantage of Ed's frail physical, emotional and mental condition and further exacerbated it by isolating him from others, and particularly from his sons. Any meetings with Ed were closely guarded by Betty, who would not let his children meet or speak with Ed unless she was present.

"Once Ed was in a sufficiently vulnerable state, Betty exerted undue influence upon him to obtain his cooperation with her scheme. Under her undue influence, Ed's will was dominated and overpowered by Betty's will and he apparently. provided her with his cooperation a passive and resigned manner and without actively comprehending the ramifications of her or his actions," the lawsuit states.

According to Barry's version of events, Betty advanced the sale to Pulitzer with cunning and secrecy, signing Ed's name on corporate documents, canceling key meetings - and keeping Barry in the dark about the impending sale while other executives went about making arrangements.

Barry says in the lawsuit he learned the sale was on only when the home office sent out an inventory accounting letter to the Haverhill (Mass.) Gazette, where Barry was president.

According to the lawsuit, Betty frustrated Barry's attempts to slow the sale by refusing to sell his own stock.

"Betty exercised in Ed's name, but without proper authority ... to freeze Barry out as a shareholder in Scripps League and its subsidiaries by means of a series of mergers and exercises of stock buyback agreements," the lawsuit states.

Even after the sale went through, Barry Scripps has refused to take money from Pulitzer, his attorney said.

``Barry has received no money, and that's because he has refused to tender his stock," said Anthony M. Doniger, an attorney with the Boston law firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, PC.

Barry Scripps' lawsuit at time resembles the scrapbook of a troubled family. …

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