Judge Blocks Exec From Starting New 'Strib' Job -- And Orders Paper To Turn Over Computers

By: A Ramsey County judge on Friday blocked a former St. Paul Pioneer Press executive from starting his new job at the Star Tribune, saying it's clear the new job would violate a noncompete agreement.

Judge David C. Higgs granted a Pioneer Press request for a temporary restraining order to keep Jennifer Parratt from starting her job as director of niche publications at the Star Tribune.

The order is part of the proceedings in a lawsuit filed by the Pioneer Press over former publisher Par Ridder, who defected to become the Star Tribune's publisher and CEO last month. The Pioneer Press lawsuit alleges that Ridder broke a non-compete agreement by taking the new job, and that he handed over sensitive data about finances, advertising, and circulation.

The Pioneer Press alleges that information ended up on computers belonging to the Star Tribune and some of its executives. Higgs also ordered the Star Tribune to hand over several computers, including its servers, Ridder's home computer, and another home computer where some Ridder e-mails were sent so an expert hired by the Pioneer Press can verify that copies of the data on those computers are accurate.

Higgs also ordered the Star Tribune to turn over paper documents belonging to the Pioneer Press within two days. The Pioneer Press has alleged that Ridder took a folder containing noncompete agreements signed by him and other executives.

The Star Tribune issued a statement saying it would comply with the order.

"We're anxious to get a full hearing on the merits and look forward to presenting our case as soon as possible," it said.

The restraining order granted Friday required the judge to decide which side was more likely to be right about Parratt's noncompete agreement. The Star Tribune will get a chance to argue against it at an injunction hearing scheduled for June 18.


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