S.F.'s Fangs Sue to Regain Control of 'Examiner' from Anschutz

By: (AP) The Examiner's former owners are suing to regain control of the San Francisco newspaper and other publishing assets, alleging they were misled into a $20 million sale last year by the betrayal of a former executive.

The Fang family, which owned the Examiner for three years, wants a San Mateo County Superior Court judge to nullify the paper's sale to Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz as part of a lawsuit filed against Anschutz and the paper's current publisher, P. Scott McKibben. Before Anschutz bought the Examiner 11 months ago, McKibben oversaw the paper for the Fangs.

In their suit, the Fangs allege McKibben rebuffed other potential buyers so Anschutz could buy the paper and other assets at a deeply discounted price. The suit contends McKibben concealed a possible conflict of interest as he negotiated the deal -- his brother, Ryan, was an Anschutz consultant at the time of the sale.

After the Fangs agreed to the sale, Anschutz named P. Scott McKibben as the Examiner's publisher and subsequently named Ryan McKibben as chief executive of Clarity Media Group, the San Francisco paper's newly formed parent company, according to the lawsuit.

P. Scott McKibben declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted Wednesday.

The Fangs filed their complaint in November after McKibben sued them, alleging the family owes him a $1.2 million commission for brokering the Anschutz deal.

In their suit, the Fangs say they never signed a contract authorizing the commission. What's more, the Fangs say they should be rewarded $11 million in damages and the sale should be nullified.

Anschutz, one of the country's wealthiest men with an estimated $5.2 billion fortune, is trying to resuscitate the Examiner as a free tabloid. The paper, once a cornerstone in the publishing empire of William Randolph Hearst, hemorrhaged readers -- and money -- for years as readers defected to the larger San Francisco Chronicle and suburban rivals.

The Hearst Corp. jettisoned the Examiner shortly after buying the Chronicle for $660 million in 2000. As part of an unusual deal, Hearst turned over the Examiner to the Fangs with a $66.7 million subsidy to help keep the paper alive. The Fangs, longtime owners of numerous San Francisco Bay area weeklies, sold the Examiner after the subsidy ran out.

Also yesterday, Anschutz' Clarity Media Group announced it will launch a free, six-day-a-week newspaper in the Washington, D.C., area beginning Feb. 1. The Washington Examiner will replace three suburban newspapers that Clarity purchased from Journal Newspapers Inc.

Although the Denver-based company has filed trademark applications for the Examiner name in dozens of cities, the company has said that name may not necessarily be used on future acquisitions.


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