SPECIAL REPORT: Testimony from Ridder Trial, Part IV -- What About Those Spreadsheets?

By: Jennifer Saba E&P has obtained the full transcript of the trial in late June relating to Par Ridder jumping as publisher from the St. Paul Pioneer Press to the Star Tribune in Minnesota, and we've have carried excerpts here for a few days. Here is the fourth installment (see links to first three at bottom).

The Pioneer Press alleges in the lawsuit, among other things, that Ridder along with others violated a noncompete agreement and took sensitive financial data to the Star Tribune. A judge's ruling is expected soon.

Michael Riggs, the former CFO of the Star Tribune, was named as a defendant in the trial. Ridder had given him Pioneer Press spreadsheets -- but only for for Riggs to copy the templates and use for Star Tribune information, Ridder claims.

Below is the testimony of Riggs when he took the stand. Defense attorney Sheldon Pollock with Davis Polk & Wardwell is asking the questions. An "A" indicates Riggs' response.

Q Mr. Riggs, you understand that you are a defendant in this action?

A Yes, I do.

Q Where do you currently work?

A At the Star Tribune.

Q What is your job title at the Star Tribune?

A I'm senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Q And when did you begin a CFO at the Star Tribune?

A March of 2006.

Q Mr. Riggs, I'd like to talk to you about some of the spreadsheets containing Pioneer Press data that Mr. Ridder sent to you that we've heard testimony about during this hearing, okay?

A Okay.

Q Did you receive those spreadsheets?

A Yes, I did.

Q Did you use the information in the spreadsheets containing Pioneer Press data to compete against the Pioneer Press in any way at all?

A No, I did not.

Q Now, how did Mr. Ridder come to send you those spreadsheets in the first place, Mr. Riggs?

A Sometime in the first week of Par's joining the paper, he'd indicated to me that he was going to be forwarding to me a series of spreadsheets that he wanted me to populate with Star Tribune data. And he indicated that these spreadsheets were spreadsheets that he'd used at other newspapers that he had worked at and that they were going to be something that he wanted generated on a monthly basis.

Q Did Mr. Ridder say anything about how you should treat those spreadsheets?

A Yes. He asked me to make sure the information in those spreadsheets did not get out.

Q Did Mr. Ridder send you the spreadsheets as he mentioned he would?

A Yes, he did.

Q And did those spreadsheets contain proprietary Pioneer Press information?

A Yes, they did.

Q What did you do with the spreadsheets that Mr. Ridder sent to you?

A When Par told me he was going to be sending me some spreadsheets with reports that he wanted generated, I had let Jon Ochetti, our director of business planning, know that we had a reporting project that was up and coming, and that I was going to be forwarding those files to him once I received them, and that he was going to be charged with creating this. So I forwarded them on to Jon.

Q And was Mr. Ochetti's task to create a reporting info structure or was he to just simply populate the data in the spreadsheets?

A No. I let Jon know that I had no desire to simply use the files and create a one-off reporting structure that was manually updated, and I wanted this built in our financial systems that would auto-populate at the end of each period to prevent any errors and for efficiency purposes.

Q Did you forward the e-mails containing the spreadsheets to Jon Ochetti after your conversation with him?

A Yes, I did.

Q Did you forward them to anyone else?

A No, I did not.

Q Did you show them in any form to anyone else?

A No, I did not.

Q Why did you e-mail the spreadsheets to Mr. Ochetti?

A Something with Jon, because he and his staff are the most well-equipped to execute and pull together this type of a project.

Q Did you give Mr. Ochetti any instructions about the spreadsheets?

A Yes. I repeated what Par had asked -- told me which was to make sure the information in the spreadsheets did not get out.

Q At any point in time, did you and Mr. Ridder meet to discuss the spreadsheets?

A Yes, on the morning of March 9th, Friday the 9th. We met in my office and flipped through a printout of the files that he had forwarded to me where I asked him a number of questions about what a particular report would be -- what he was looking for in a report. He
also, at that point, set aside certain of the reports that were included in the original e-mails indicating that they were not anything that he had found useful and that he did not want me to go ahead and reproduce at the Star Tribune, and then we created another pile which was the reports that we actually needed to go ahead and generate.

Q How did you get the printout that you used during that meeting?

A After I forwarded the e-mails to Jon, Jon had actually printed them out. And prior to Par's coming over to my office, I actually grabbed them from Jon letting him know that I was meeting with Par. He said, "Use these to flip through pages, if you need to take any notes, take notes on these pages."

Q Did you, yourself, print any of the spreadsheets?

A No, I did not.

Q What did you do after the meeting with Mr. Ridder?

A I met with Jon Ochetti in my office and conveyed in more detail what we needed to do to execute against creating the reporting structure, gave him my thoughts on where I thought the data resided for example in our organization, some ideas about some modifications that we would make to these to actually fit our business.

Q Did you give that printout that had the mark up with notes to Mr. Ochetti?

A I did.

Q And after you gave the spreadsheets to Mr. Ochetti, can you give the court a sense of your involvement in the reporting project as it was ongoing?

A After meeting with Jon, I let him know that I wanted him to get this done and take responsibility for it. And after that, I fielded a number of questions that came up in trying to pull the information together. In addition, I updated Par a number of times as had he was
quite interested in getting these files created as quickly as possible.

Q Do you know why Mr. Ridder was interested in getting these files created as quickly as possible?

A He was very clear that this is the way he's used to looking at the business. As a matter of fact, I even forwarded to him some files that we used in the sale process that had some historical financial information in it, and he was appreciative but wanted these files created as quickly as possible.


The first part of the testimony can be found here.

The second part of the testimony can be found here.

The third part of the testimony can be found here..


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