Knight Ridder Gadfly Bruce Sherman Drops $520K For Cruise at Charity Auction

By: E&P Staff

Bruce Sherman won’t talk to the press about his role in forcing a sale of Knight Ridder Inc., but the Private Capital Management LP CEO wasn’t feeling shy last Saturday night when he bested TV’s “Judge Judy” Sheindlin at a charity auction with a $520,000 bid for a Mediterranean cruise.

The press-shy Sherman even managed to give a sound bite to the Naples (Fla.) Daily News after the bidding.

“It was spontaneous,” he said, according to the News article Sunday by Gina Edwards and Denise Zoldan.

Sherman told the Daily News he didn’t know he was competing against the famously outspoken TV judge.

But Edwards and Zoldan described a raucous round of bidding between the two for Lot 21, a week-long tour of the Mediterranean aboard a 170-foot yacht owned by Naples local Michael DeGroote.

The bidding was part of the Naples Winter Wine Festival charity wine auction that raises money for a variety of Collier County, Fla., children’s charities. The auction and other events Saturday raised $12.19 million, the Daily News reported.

Edwards and Zoldan wrote that Judge Judy “continually lifted her paddle into the air, almost reluctantly at the end, as though she were crossing some private line drawn in her own sand — money.”

As her bid of $510,000 appeared on four big-screen TVs, they wrote, the crowd roared — growing louder as Sherman bid $520,000. The auctioneer tried unsuccessfully to coax Sheindlin to go another $10,000, saying “Five thirty, isn’t that the time your show comes on?”

Sherman set off the probable sale of Knight Ridder — which reportedly has talked recently with possible bidders including private equity firms and the Gannett, McClatchy, and MediaNews Group newspaper chains — when in November he wrote a letter demanding it “aggressively pursue the competitive sale of the company.” The demand was quickly ratified by two other large shareholders, and the chain soon announced it would “explore strategic alternatives” including a sale.

Big as it was, Sherman’s $520,000 yacht tour — which the Daily News noted includes “three 3-liter bottles of Gargiulo Vineyards wine, and the company of vintners Jeff Gargiulo and Valerie Boyd for the trip,” was not the auction’s highest bid.

That went for Lot 39, which included a trip for four to New York City aboard a private jet with tickets to “Emeril Live” and “Live with Regis and Kelly.” The package was doubled so that two bidding couples, including former CNN anchor Denise Cobb, could win it. The Big Apple tour went for $600,000, the Daily News reported.

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