Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawsuit Roils Storied Philadelphia Newspaper

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawsuit Roils Storied Philadelphia Newspaper

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- Two owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer sued their company and publisher Thursday over this week's firing of Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Bill Marimow, in just the latest sign of internal warfare at the storied newspaper.

Former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz and cable TV mogul H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest accuse Publisher Robert "Bob" Hall of overstepping his authority, and demand his ouster and Mr. Marimow's return.

The lawsuit cements their long-rumored rift with fellow co-owner George Norcross, an influential New Jersey Democrat, over the direction of the struggling media company, which they and others bought last year for $55 million.

Mr. Norcross' daughter, Lexie, runs the company's free website, which offers readers much of the same content as the paid sites run by the Inquirer and its sister paper, the Philadelphia Daily News.

According to the suit, Mr. Norcross and Mr. Katz make up a two- person management committee that must approve any major business or operational decisions. Yet Mr. Katz, who invested $16 million for a 26 percent stake in the company last year, was not consulted about Mr. Marimow's firing, the suit said.

The lawsuit states that newsroom morale, and the company's reputation, has plummeted amid news reports about what the suit called "the aberrant circumstances of Marimow's firing."

Mr. Marimow had refused to fire as many as five veteran staff members who offended Mr. Norcross or his daughter, according to two newsroom staffers with knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of a recent company directive not to talk to outside media.

In response to the lawsuit, a spokesman for Mr. Norcross and the remaining investors accused Mr. Katz of interfering with editorial operations, something the owners had pledged not to do. The Norcross faction, with a 58 percent stake, said staff decisions are Mr. …

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