Delaware judge to rule on the future of Philly newspapers

(file/NewsWorks)

(file/NewsWorks)

The ongoing battle over control of Philadelphia’s daily newspapers has taken a toll on staff morale.

That’s just one of the points made on Monday in a Delaware court room about the fate of the publications.

There are five parties that make up Philadelphia’s biggest media enterprise, Interstate General Media. They are all in Delaware Chancery Court this week to obtain a judge’s ruling on how their multimillion-dollar partnership should be dissolved.

George Norcross and Lewis Katz, two of the co-owners of the Daily News, the Inquirer and Philly.com, want IGM to go to the highest bidder. However, the owners can’t agree on who should be invited to the auction.

Norcross said he and Katz made an agreement: If they came to a point of disagreement over the organization, they would split the company by and between shareholders, which includes the local newspaper guild. He also noted that an LLC agreement made when they purchased the company in early 2012 states that they could not sell to outside parties until 2016.

Norcross added that his plan would minimize harm to company employees, who have been through five owners in the past seven years. His plan calls for a $77 million starting bid, with each successive bid increasing by $1 million.

Katz, along with fellow owner Gerry Lenfest, wants the sale open to the pubic.

The state of the newsroom

In addition to the testimony of the owners, newspaper management was also called on to testify.

Christine Bananducci, the vice-president of human resources for Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the papers, described the state of the newsroom during the months of disagreement.

Bananducci said that the back-and-forth between the owners lead to the exit of nearly a dozen employees over the past year, with many indicating that they were unhappy with management and with their work environment.

Norcross said the company has faced financial challenges as circulation and advertising revenue continue to drop, which caused operational and personnel cuts.

Coincidentally, all of this played out on Monday as the Inquirer was notified that staff architectural critic Inga Saffron received a Pulitzer Prize award for her work.

The IGM case continues on Tuesday.

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