Family Court p.6

By: Mark Fitzgerald BARRY H. SCRIPPS, once heir-apparent to Scripps League Newspapers, is suing his mother and adoptive father over the sale of the chain last July to Pulitzer Publishing Co.
In a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts Superior Court, Barry Scripps, 51, alleges his 70-year-old mother, Betty, "implemented a wrongful scheme" to sell Scripps League and "unlawfully induced" Barry's 87-year-old father, Edward W. Scripps, to "breach their lifelong promises to Barry to retain the ownership of Scripps League in the family and ultimately turn over its management and control to Barry."
Edward W. Scripps ? who was co-founder of the chain and its chairman, president, chief executive officer and treasurer at the time of the sale to Pulitzer ? is named as a defendant, as is Pulitzer Community Newspapers Inc., the Pulitzer unit that now includes Scripps League's 16 dailies and 30 non-dailies, shoppers and niche publications. Pulitzer paid $214 million cash for Scripps League.
The lawsuit alleges Edward W. Scripps ? referred to as "Ed" throughout the suit ? repeatedly promised Barry that Scripps League would remain in the family and Barry would some day run the company.
Barry also contends in the lawsuit that he was given a promise of lifelong employment within Scripps League ? a promise the lawsuit claims is legally binding on new owner Pulitzer.
However, the thrust of the 18-page lawsuit ? and most of its harshest language ? is aimed at Barry's mother, Betty.
"To implement her scheme to sell Scripps League," the lawsuit states, "Betty took advantage of Ed's frail physical, emotional and mental condition and further exacerbated it by isolating him from others, and particularly from his sons. Any meetings with Ed were closely guarded by Betty, who would not let his children meet or speak with Ed unless she was present.
"Once Ed was in a sufficiently vulnerable state, Betty exerted undue influence upon him to obtain his cooperation with her scheme. Under her undue influence, Ed's will was dominated and overpowered by Betty's will and he apparently provided her with his cooperation a passive and resigned manner and without actively comprehending the ramifications of her or his actions," the lawsuit states.
According to Barry's version of events, Betty advanced the sale to Pulitzer with cunning and secrecy, signing Ed's name on corporate documents, canceling key meetings ? and keeping Barry in the dark about the impending sale while other executives went about making arrangements.
Barry says in the lawsuit he learned the sale was on only when the home office sent out an inventory accounting letter to the Haverhill (Mass.) Gazette, where Barry was president.
According to the lawsuit, Betty frustrated Barry's attempts to slow the sale by refusing to sell his own stock.
"Betty exercised in Ed's name, but without proper authority . . . to freeze Barry out as a shareholder in Scripps League and its subsidiaries by means of a series of mergers and exercises of stock buyback agreements," the lawsuit states.
Even after the sale went through, Barry Scripps has refused to take money from Pulitzer, his attorney said.
"Barry has received no money, and that's because he has refused to tender his stock," said Anthony M. Doniger, an attorney with the Boston law firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.
Barry Scripps' lawsuit at time resembles the scrapbook of a troubled family. He quotes, for instance, from personal letters: "But Barry," the lawsuit quotes his father writing in one letter, "please believe me when I say that it will all come out right in the end ? and it will be basically fair."
The lawsuit portrays Barry as a dutiful son who put asides his own dreams of building a newspaper chain ? as his father had done ? in order to serve the family business, Scripps League Newspapers. Relying on promises that he would one day run the enterprise, the lawsuit says, Barry sacrificed even his marriage to the punishing work and travel schedule necessary to keep Scripps League private during an earlier family and financial crisis of the early 1980s.
"In each of his decisions ? from joining Scripps League and giving up his ambition of building an independent journalistic career, to making personal and family sacrifices for the sake of saving and cultivating the business, including uprooting his family to move to Massachusetts, to investing personal capital, agreeing to sell back his children's shares, refraining from buying more Scripps League stock, and refraining from complaining over the years about Betty and Ed's excessive and improper use of corporate monies to fund personal expenses . . . Barry relied on Ed's and Betty's promises and representations that some day the family business would be his to run and own," the lawsuit states.
But like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, Barry's account suggests, he found it all vanity.
"As a result of the sale of Scripps League and the termination of his employment," the lawsuit states, "instead of enjoying fulfilling a career and a place in the family legacy that Ed and Betty had promised him throughout all his adult life, Barry has suddenly found himself, at the age of 51 and with many productive years ahead of him, in the stressful and humiliating position of being unemployed, without a source of income, having received no severance pay, and with few opportunities and insufficient resources for starting anew in a highly competitive industry."
An answer to the lawsuit is due in January, and its defendants are not commenting extensively on the complaint.
"We have not commented except to say the complaint is without merit and Mr. and Mrs. Scripps intend to defend it vigorously. They are very saddened by it," said the attorney for Edward W. and Betty Knight Scripps, Marshall Moriarity of the Boston law firm Ropes & Gray.
Nicholas G. Penniman IV, St. Louis Post-Dispatch publisher and senior vice president of newspaper operations for Pulitzer Publishing Co., said Pulitzer had no comment on the lawsuit.
In a prepared statement, Barry Scripps suggested he is suing his mother and father because the legacy of Scripps League had been "destroyed."
"The legacy and proud tradition of Scripps League Newspapers have been and always will be the primary focus of my life," Scripps said. "Now I have to pursue through the court system the life-long promises made that Scripps League would always remain in our family.
"Those promises were shattered by the sale of the company in a way that destroyed the legacy of a great American newspaper tradition. I am fighting so that I can rebuild another Scripps group of newspaper and preserve that legacy for future generations.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here