Is “Tainted Justice” Now Tainted?

It would appear that an Inquirer story killed last month by publisher Gerry Lenfest is back from the dead.

The Inquirer today has a lengthy front-page story examining why Thomas Tolstoy, a Philadelphia Police officer accused of sexually assaulting women in the Daily News’ Pulitzer-winning “Tainted Justice” series in 2009, is still on the force.

The Inky’s answer? A main witness gave federal officials inconsistent accounts of her encounter with Tolstoy. And her already shaky credibility was hurt when she told federal officials that Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker had helped with bills and bought her gifts.

If true, investigators said, Ruderman and Laker could be seen as “enticing” the victim’s story, harming her credibility in court. And journalistic ethics generally prohibit giving gifts to sources. Ruderman said she did buy a bag of groceries for the woman, but that was the extent of the help.

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The Last Days of the Philadelphia Inquirer?

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27th, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Let’s stipulate many things about Gerry Lenfest. That he’s a good man. A boon to the community. Somebody whose philanthropy has enriched this city beyond the usual ways of measuring. Philadelphia is better, much better, for his devotion to us.

But he is not the man to lead the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com into the future — which is the plan, now that the auction he and Lewis Katz won two weeks ago has ended with Wednesday’s official closing, putting the organizations into his hands. His leadership may, in fact, signal the effective demise of those publications.

Let’s be blunt about the reasons why.

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Drew Katz to Sell Interest in Inquirer, Daily News

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walk with philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walks with philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Drew Katz is selling his interest in Interstate General Media, the company that his late father Lewis Katz won at auction just two weeks ago after a furious months-long fight over the ownership of Philadelphia’s major newspapers. The announcement Tuesday night appears to leave Gerry Lenfest, Lewis Katz’s partner in the bidding, the sole owner of those newspapers.

“Because of the turmoil of the last 10 days, I have made a decision that it would be in the best interests of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com for me to sell my interest in the company,” Drew Katz said in an email Tuesday night. “I believe strongly that the organization would be in excellent hands under the ownership of Gerry Lenfest now and in the years to come.”

The announcement came hours after a report at BigTrial.net that Drew Katz had fallen out with Lenfest in the days since his father’s death, allegedly feeling he’d been elbowed out of decisions concerning the future of the papers by the older man — and resenting, reportedly, that Lenfest hadn’t offered any personal condolences about Lewis Katz’s death in a plane crash a week after the bidding concluded.

Drew Katz denied he’d had any falling-out with Lenfest.

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Inquirer, Daily News Co-Owner Lewis Katz Dies in Massachusetts Plane Crash

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz at the closed-door auction they later won on Tuesday, May 27th. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz at the closed-door auction they later won on Tuesday, May 27th. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

The Inquirer reports that one of its owners died in a plane crash last night:

Lewis Katz, 72, co-owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and Philly.com, died Saturday night in the crash of a private plane at a Massachusetts airfield.Katz’s death was confirmed by Inquirer editor Bill Marimow, who said he learned the news Sunday morning from close associates.

All seven people were killed aboard the private plane that crashed at Hanscom Field and erupted into a fireball, authorities said Sunday.

The Gulfstream IV crashed about 9:40 p.m. Saturday as it was departing for Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the air field.

At a 3 p.m. press conference, National Transportation Safety Board officials said they were still seeking the plane’s black box — most of the plane itself was consumed by the fire, they said. Witnesses reported that the plane, which was carrying four passengers (the rest were crew), never become airborne: There was, however, no reason to suggest that the event was anything but an accident.

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Lewis Katz: I Really Thought Norcross Wanted to Own It, Didn’t You?

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz arrive for a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Katz and Lenfest are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

There were a lot of people shocked Tuesday when Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest emerged the winners over George Norcross in the bidding for Philadelphia’s two major newspapers. Among those who didn’t expect Katz to lead his team to victory? Katz himself.

That seemed apparent in the press conference right after the auction, when Katz and Lenfest repeatedly declined to answer questions about their plans for the papers. But Katz’s own statements in recent days have buttressed that notion that he expected George Norcross — who led a “majority faction” of owners — to out-bid him.

Instead, Norcross walked away, reportedly profiting on the initial investment made in the newspapers in 2012.

Katz? He won himself an $88 million turnaround project — an undertaking he wasn’t quite prepared for, if his own comments are any guide.

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3 Ideas to Jump-Start Innovation at the Inquirer and Daily News

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Shutterstock.com

Well, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are under new ownership, which looks a lot like the old ownership. Somewhat distressingly, Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest bought total control over the papers without much apparent idea what to do next — except hire the right guy to fix it all.

While they’re waiting to do that, here’s three ideas — tried elsewhere — to jumpstart innovation and hopefully clot the bleeding going on at the papers.

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Katz, Lenfest Winners of Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com Auction

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz arrive for a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Katz and Lenfest are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz arrive for a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Katz and Lenfest are taking over Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Joel Mathis is on the scene of the auction of the Inquirer and Daily News, where it’s just been announced that the group led by Lewis Katz and H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest has emerged victorious with a winning bid of $88 million. We’ll be updating this post throughout the day.

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Today Is the First Day of the Rest of the Inquirer’s Life

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Well, I was almost right.

A year-and-a-half ago, I took stock of the then-new ownership of Philly’s major daily newspapers and offered the following declaration: “There are no white knights left. These owners, and this band of journalists, will decide whether the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com have a real future in this city.”

Today, that band of owners is getting divorced. And as has happened an absurd number of times over the last decade, the papers find themselves at a crossroads. Today, today really is the first day of the rest of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s life.

But I wasn’t entirely wrong. We already know that today’s auction of the papers will result, simply, in a faction of the the current ownership gaining full control. Either the “majority faction” led by George Norcross, or the minority faction composed of Lew Katz and Gerry Lenfest will end up owning the joint lock, stock, and barrel. The cast hasn’t really changed: It’s just losing a few faces.

Which means, once and again, that ahem: These owners and this band of journalists (those who survive the ownership change, anyway) will decide the future of Philadelphia’s most important journalistic institutions. Really, this time.

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Judge to Inquirer Owners: Let’s Have Us an English-Style Auction — You Have a Month

George Norcross (left) and Lewis Katz in court late last year. AP Photos | Matt Rourke

Inquirer ownership partners George Norcross (left) and Lewis Katz in court late last year. AP Photos | Matt Rourke

And there you have it. In a ruling issued on Friday, Vice Chancellor Donald F. Parsons of the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware has decreed that the warring partners in Interstate General Media — the company that owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com — will have a private auction among themselves to determine who will own the operation going forward. And that it must happen right quick:

… I will order the dissolution of IGM. In addition, I will order IGM to be sold in a private, “English-style” open ascending auction between General American and Intertrust. The minimum bid for the auction shall be set at $77 million in cash. I hereby direct General American and Intertrust promptly to confer and submit a proposed form of order implementing these rulings consistent with the other terms of the proposed private auction that were discussed at the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing and during the final argument on April 24, 2014. I further order that in no event shall the auction for IGM be held later than May 28, 2014; that is, no more than thirty calendar days from, and inclusive of, Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

So, imagine the kind of auction you see on TV: a fast-talking auctioneer and bidders who raise paddles or wink or make little shooting gestures with their hands when they hear a number they like. Now imagine that there are just two guys doing the bidding: George Norcross and Lewis Katz.

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