By: Lucia Moses
MediaNews Will Hold Off On Changes To JOA
MediaNews Group Inc. will hold off on carrying out changes it
made in the joint operating agreement (JOA) governing its newly
acquired Salt Lake Tribune, under an order filed Thursday.
A federal court order says Denver-based MediaNews may make no
“significant operational changes” in the business agency that
runs the Tribune and its smaller partner, the Deseret
News, until a hearing in February.
MediaNews and Tribune managers agreed to the terms of the
order after the managers went to court Monday seeking to bar the
changes. It was their latest legal challenge to MediaNews’ $200
million purchase of the Tribune from AT&T.
“To us, this is a significant and strategic victory,”
Tribune General Manager Randy Frisch, said of the order.
The managers had claimed that MediaNews’ JOA changes would
undermine the paper’s strength and violate what they say is their
right, under the JOA, to operate the paper and buy it in 2002.
Among other changes, MediaNews had installed Joseph Zerbey as JOA
president, replacing Tribune Publisher Dominic Welch, and
removed Welch and General Manager Frisch from their positions on
the JOA board.
Thursday’s order says Zerbey may stay as president but lets Welch
participate in any meetings Zerbey has with agency staff. The
order also preserves agency employee benefits for the time being.
The managers had worried that MediaNews would cut Tribune
employees’ retirement benefits.
The JOA has been a point of contention between the morning
Tribune and afternoon Deseret News, which feels the
agreement favors the Tribune and stands in its way of
converting to morning publication. The Tribune managers
fear that the planned changes would give up too much to the
News and weaken the Tribune’s voice as an editorial
alternative to the Mormon Church-owned News.
The order will stay in effect until February, when U.S. District
Court Judge Tena Campbell in Utah is scheduled to hear arguments
on the managers’ request for a preliminary injunction to block
further implementation of the new JOA and restore the
Tribune managers’ JOA positions. The managers have also
asked to expand their original lawsuit challenging the sale by
adding the Deseret News as a defendant.
Lucia Moses (email@example.com) is an associate editor covering business for E&P.
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE FILES TO BLOCK JOA CHANGES (01/10/01)
SALT LAKE NEWSPAPER DISPUTE CONTINUES (01/08/01)
Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.