Inky Ownership Battle Moves to End Game

Minority owners ready to dissolve the partnership—but not in easy fashion.

The good news? The Inky ownership battle appears to be moving toward its end. The bad news? Things could still get uglier before they get better. Quoth the Inky:

After weeks of silence in the feud, the two sides now agree, in court filings that emerged Friday, that their differences were irreconcilable. They disagree, however, on how a sale should proceed.

New Jersey businessman and Democratic leader George E. Norcross III on Friday asked a Delaware court to order a private auction among the five partners of Interstate General Media, which owns The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and

Lewis Katz and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, meanwhile, want a public sale of the company, and late Thursday asked Philadelphia Common Pleas Court to order one.

What’s the difference between the two approaches? Well, a private sale would enable the Norcross-led group (say) to buy out the minority ownership faction led by Gerry Lenfest and Lewis Katz straight out. The public auction essentially puts the entirety of the company for sale—again—giving old owners (and, potentially) new parties a chance to bid on outright control of the papers. The second option would drive up the price (and value) of the papers for the previous shareholders, says the attorney for Katz and Lenfest.

Which is great if you’re cashing out of the business. But it seems we’ve recently seen newspaper owners who spent a ton of money buying the newspapers and having none left to put into building the business. And it puts the employees of the papers through potentially another outright changeof ownership—the fifth time in a decade—which, you know, sucks. It seems like there ought to be a better way to get this deal done and let the papers try to survive moving forward. But in the world of Philadelphia media, nothing’s ever easy.