Reporters union wants to bid for ownership stake of Inquirer, Daily News

    Leaders of the union representing reporters at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News say, if the papers are auctioned, they want to bid for an ownership stake in the company.The union filed to intervene in the court battle over whether the company owning the papers and Philly.com will be auctioned, and if it is, just who will be allowed to bid.

    If you’re late on the latest chapter of this sorry saga, warring owners Lewis Katz and George Norcross have asked two different courts to order an auction of the company to resolve their irreconcilable differences.Norcross wants the auction limited to the existing five owners of the company; Katz wants it open to others.

    Norcross went to court in Delaware, where the company is registered. Katz went to Philadelphia, where the company operates.

    Bill Ross, business manager of the Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters, editors, photographers and others at the paper, said it’s time for a new course and an ownership more closely connected to employees.

    “Right now the company seems to be gridlocked,” Ross said after a brief status hearing Monday in front of Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Patricia McInerney. “No major decisions can be made, and our members are trying to find out what is going on … there is no leadership in this company.”

    The union told members in a bulletin Monday that the union wants “to participate in the bidding process to acquire the company’s assets, in whole or in part.”

    Ross said the union has at least one investor willing to go in and help it acquire an ownership stake in the company. He won’t identify the investor, and it’s not clear how much of a stake the union envisions.

    McInerney has asked for legal briefs and will hold a hearing on the request for a court-ordered auction.Asked whether such an effort has worked elsewhere, Ross cited the newspaper in Portland, Maine.A quick check of clips shows that the Newspaper Guild was supportive of philanthropist Donald Sussman’s efforts to revive MaineToday Media, Inc., which owns several Maine newspapers and websites.

    Like Philadelphia’s controversial investors, Sussman brought some political ties to the party. Sussman, who took a board seat and a 5 percent stake in the company after providing critically needed financing, is married to Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

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