Two owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer have sued their company and publisher over the firing of Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Bill Marimow.
Former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz and cable TV mogul H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest say Publisher Robert Hall was not authorized to fire Marimow on Monday and did not consult them.
Thursday’s lawsuit comes as their rift with co-owner George Norcross — an influential New Jersey Democrat, who is also chairman of the board of Cooper Health System — over Interstate General Media’s direction grows more public.
The lawsuit seeks Marimow’s return and Hall’s ouster. It alleges newsroom morale has plummeted. Current and former staffers have also signed an online petition supporting Marimow.
“Today’s filing was not unexpected,” said Dan Fee, a spokesman for the majority shareholders, including Norcross. “Unfortunately, one of the minority shareholders of Interstate General Media, Lewis Katz, has a well-documented history of attempting to interfere in the editorial and journalistic operations of the newspapers, something each of the owners publicly and in writing pledged not to do. This lawsuit is just the latest example.”
Fee went on to quote a legal opinion from Cozen and O’Connor saying Hall, the publisher, has authority to fire Marimow.
“It’s really heartening to have people of the quality and integrity of Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest supporting the Inquirer newsroom,” Marimow said in response to the news. “The fact that the two of them have filed this lawsuit reinforces their strong comittment and public spirit in terms of really a strong comittment to quality journalism in Philadelphia.” He declined to comment further.
Katz, Lenfest and Norcross formed Interstate General Media with other investors when they bought the Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News in April 2012 for $55 million.