Jon Campisi Jan. 15, 2014, 9:21am


The union representing editorial staff at the Philadelphia Inquirer and

Philadelphia Daily News has thrown its hat into the mix of those wishing to purchasing the periodicals.

The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia filed a civil action on Jan. 14 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking to take ownership of the papers, which have been besieged in recent time by ownership disputes.

The union and its 550 local members point out in their complaint that they have been witness to five different groups buying and selling the newspapers since 2005, according to Courthouse News Service, which reported Tuesday’s filing.

A copy of the actual complaint was not readily available Tuesday evening.

In addition to Interstate General Media, the papers’ current owning entity, the lawsuit names as codefendants Intertrust GCN L.P. and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, one of the current owners.

The lawsuit apparently references the slew of lawsuits in recent months that have resulted in “paralysis of the company’s operations,” according to the Courthouse News Service report.

Lenfest, who along with co-owner Lewis Katz was involved in recent litigation against George E. Norcross, III, another co-owner who is part of a rival faction of the current ownership, over the firing of editor William Marimow, has also filed a petition for dissolution of the current ownership group.

Lenfest is seeking a public sale of the company while Norcross is seeking to have a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge order a private auction of its assets.

The union says in its complaint that the continuing drama shows that the “survivability of the company and its longstanding legacy newspapers is in jeopardy, and the jobs of approximately 550 Guild members are at stake,” according to Courthouse News Service.

In addition to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News, Interstate General Media also owns and operates the website Philly.com.

The newspaper guild seeks to have a judge either order a public auction of the company and/or the right to participate in the bidding process as a possible buyer in any potential private auction, the record shows.

Court records show that the guild is being represented by attorney Lisa Lori, of the Philadelphia law firm of Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg LLP.

The previous litigation was initiated because Lenfest and Katz claimed Norcross improperly withheld a decision to terminate Marimow, the editor, from his position without the knowledge and/or consent of Lenfest and Katz.

Marimow was fired in early October by Inquirer publisher Robert Hall, who was also a defendant in the prior civil action.

Katz and Norcross both sit on a management committee whose members are supposed to discuss all major company decisions, the two argued in their suit.

In late November, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia A. McInerney granted an injunction request seeking to reinstate Marimow to his editor position.

He was immediately returned to his job and is currently at the helm of the Inquirer.

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