‘Birmingham News’ Appeals Arbitration Ruling

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Birmingham (Ala.) News is appealing an arbitration panel’s rulings that awarded a total of nearly $20 million to six former newspaper distributorships that alleged the company unlawfully ended their delivery contracts in 1998.

Five distributorships were awarded compensatory and punitive damages for loss of franchises and profits that were calculated to last another 20 years. One former dealer was awarded monetary damages based on 10 years of lost profits.

In a Birmingham News statement last week, Publisher Victor H. Hanson III said his company — the joint operating agency for the News and the Birmingham Post-Herald — had appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court because the arbitration panel had exceeded its authority with a decision “totally unsupported” by the facts. He declined to comment further to E&P.

The dealers’ attorney, Ted Taylor, told the News that he, too, was disappointed with the panel’s award: The dealers had asked for a total of $57 million in damages. Taylor could not be reached.

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