Par Ridder Testifies for Second Day in Hearing

By: The Associated Press and E&P Staff The former publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press testified Tuesday that he didn't intend any harm to the paper when he took confidential files to his new job as publisher of the rival Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Par Ridder acknowledged taking 18 to 20 spreadsheets containing sensitive data on advertising, finances, and personnel when he was hired in March. But he said he intended to use them only to re-create the forms with Star Tribune data.

"I didn't plan on using the Pioneer Press financials," Ridder testified, because it would have given him and the Star Tribune an "unfair advantage" in the competitive Twin Cities newspaper market.

Ridder said he shared the spreadsheets with at least two other Star Tribune officials only so they could adapt them with the newspaper's own information.

Ridder's testimony came on the second day of a three-day hearing on the Pioneer Press' request to block him and two other former Pioneer Press executives from working at the Star Tribune for at least a year. A key issue is whether their noncompete agreements are enforceable under Minnesota law.

In a hallway conversation during a break in the hearing, MediaNews Group CEO William Dean Singleton rejected the idea of forming a joint operating agreement between the Star Tribune and his Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune reported in an online article by Matt McKinney.

Singleton, who also attended Monday?s hearing, called Ridder?s action unprecedented. "It's never happened before in newspapering," he said. "And it's wrong. It's just wrong."

Ridder said he developed the spreadsheets at newspapers where he had worked as a publisher before, including in San Luis Obispo, Calif. He said they were so useful in analyzing financial data that he grew frustrated at how long it was taking Star Tribune staff to recreate them and load them with the paper's data.

"I rely on these forms so much, for the first couple of weeks I felt I was missing something because I didn't have access to this information," Ridder testified.

During a break in testimony, Star Tribune Chairman Chris Harte was asked by reporters whether the allegations would hurt the 38-year-old Ridder's career.

"I don't believe so," Harte said. "I'll talk about that after the case is over."

In videotaped testimony Monday, Ridder said he and the other Pioneer Press employees had been verbally released from their noncompete agreements by Art Brisbane, then a senior vice president at Knight Ridder, when Knight Ridder was preparing to sell the paper.

Brisbane testified that he couldn't recall such a discussion.


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