UPDATE: Owner Calls Par Ridder Taking Material a "Mistake"

By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press Former St. Paul Pioneer Press publisher Par Ridder has acknowledged taking confidential information from his old employer to his new job as publisher of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

In videotaped testimony played Monday in Ramsey County District Court, Ridder acknowledged copying confidential financial documents from his Pioneer Press computer onto a portable computer drive and taking them to the Star Tribune.

Court action resumes today with the Star Tribune calling witnesses. Ridder was among 12 who appeared Monday, live or on tape.

He also acknowledged sharing some of that data on advertising, profits and personnel matters with Star Tribune officials, including members of its operating committee.

Par Ridder was hired as the Star Tribune's publisher and CEO in March. The Star Tribune is owned by Avista Capital Partners.

Ridder's testimony was part of a hearing on a temporary injunction sought by the Pioneer Press that would bar Ridder and two other Pioneer Press executives from working at the rival Star Tribune.

The Pioneer Press contends all three had noncompete agreements that were signed when the newspaper was still owned by Knight Ridder. Ridder said the executives were verbally released from those agreements, but he said it was never put in writing.

In his videotaped testimony, Ridder said that on his last day with the Pioneer Press he took a packet of noncompete agreements signed by himself and other executives.

He said his assistant at the newspaper had initially told him she would take them home and shred them, but he said he didn't feel comfortable with that and caught up with her in a parking ramp and retrieved the packet.

Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group Inc., which controls the Pioneer Press, was in the courtroom Monday.

The Pioneer Press reports today:

"Ridder was one of 12 witnesses that Pioneer Press attorneys either called to the stand, or whose videotaped depositions they played Monday. Ridder, in court Monday, sat flanked by Jennifer Parratt and Kevin Desmond, the two other former Pioneer Press employees the Pioneer Press is trying to bar from working at the Star Tribune for one year....

"James Finkelstein, a partner at Avista Capital Partners, the New York-based buyout company that owns the Star Tribune, testified by video that Ridder shouldn't have taken the information. 'It was clearly a mistake,' Finkelstein said.

"Ridder also testified that Art Brisbane, then senior vice president of Knight Ridder, former owner of the Pioneer Press, approved tossing out the noncompete agreements for the entire operating committee at the Pioneer Press, including Ridder.

"In videotaped testimony, Brisbane said he didn't recall having that conversation. He said he didn't authorize waiving the noncompete agreements since that is something that would have involved other Knight Ridder executives and some formality.

"Barb Cartalucca, assistant to the publisher at the Pioneer Press, testified that the company's vice president of Human Resources, Karen Clary, told her that Brisbane had waived the noncompete agreements for the operating committee and that Clary instructed her to pull them out of the personnel files. Cartalucca said she saved the paperwork in a file in her desk.

"Shortly before leaving the Pioneer Press, Ridder inquired about the pulled noncompetes, Cartalucca testified. She said she offered to 'take them home and shred them.'"

"Ridder testified that after speaking with Cartalucca about how to handle the paperwork, he called his father for advice. Ridder's father is Tony Ridder, former CEO of the dismantled Knight Ridder newspaper chain. 'His advice to me was to not let anything happen to those noncompetes,' Ridder said. He caught up with Cartalucca at the elevator at a nearby parking ramp, retrieved the papers and put them in his car, he said.

"Just how widely the electronic files were distributed at the Star Tribune remains unclear."


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