Tuesday, March 3, 2015

IGM publisher seeks to dismiss co-owner's lawsuit

Sign outside 801 Market St. entrance to Interstate General Media, home of The Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com (Reid Kanaley/Staff)
Sign outside 801 Market St. entrance to Interstate General Media, home of The Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com (Reid Kanaley/Staff)

UPDATE, 3pm, Friday

Lawyers for IGM Publisher Robert J. Hall moved Friday to seek dismissal of a lawsuit to have William Marimow reinstated as editor of the Inquirer. That lawsuit, filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, should be dismissed because the case should have been brought in Delaware, where the company was incorporated, Hall's lawyers argued in court papers.

Additionally, co-owner Lewis Katz had no authority to file a lawsuit because he did not have IGM board approval to do so, Hall's lawyers argued.

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More coverage
  • Katz/Lenfest: Action for Declaratory Action and Injunctive Relief
  • Complaint: General American Holdings vs. Intertrust GCN and Lewis Katz
  • Motion to Expedite
  • Hall filing: Preliminary objections
  • Hall filing: Memorandum of Law
  • Filed 6:43pm, Thursday

    George Norcross, one of two managing directors of Interstate General Media, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com, filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging IGM's other managing director, Lewis Katz, not only meddled in the company's editorial operations but is also now preventing the company from defending itself in court.

    The complaint comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Katz and another owner, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, last Thursday following IGM publisher Robert J. Hall's firing of Inquirer editor Bill Marimow. That suit seeks Marimow's reinstatement and Hall's ouster.

    Thursday's filing claims Katz "has repeatedly violated his pledge to remain removed from the editorial and journalistic operations of the papers and philly.com — a pledge all owners made, but Mr. Katz has repeatedly violated."

    A huge rift in the relationship between Norcross and Katz, the two managing directors among the six owners, has been well documented since Marimow's termination.

    The dueling lawsuits now put their dispute in a judge's hands. It also alleges that Katz is purposefully seeking to bar IGM from defending itself in court because he is one of the two managing directors of the company.

    The lawsuit today asks the Delaware court for three resolutions:

    • "[D]eclare that Katz cannot prevent IGM's Board from taking the action necessary to enable IGM to respond to the litigation he himself instigated against it."
    • "... a declaration that under the LLC Agreement controlling IGM's governance and management, Hall had every right to terminate Marimow's employment and Katz cannot meddle further with that decision."
    • to "end all other efforts by Katz both to exercise his rights under the LLC Agreement to the detriment of IGM while encumbered with an unavoidable conflict of interest."

    Seemingly, the crux of the disagreement lies in whether Hall had the unadulterated power to fire Marimow or if the management committee consisting of only Norcross and Katz had to give their approval.

    Attorneys for Katz did not respond to an email seeking comment. When reached by phone Thursday evening, Katz said he had no response to the suit other than "The courts will settle this."

    The Katz contingent's lawsuit alleges that Marimow's firing was "unauthorized, unforeseen and ill-advised."

    Marimow was fired for a variety of shortcomings Hall felt merited the action.

    "The termination is consistent with the terms of his letter agreement," Hall said in an Oct. 7 email to the ownership group. "...From my 30 years in the industry these types of decisions have long been within the established role of the Publisher, whether public or private ownership."

    The complaint was filed in Delaware Chancery Court, where Interstate General Media LLC (IGM) and Norcross' holding company, General American Holdings Inc., are based.

    The sides in the battle over Marimow's job — as well as the future of the company attempting to become more viable online and more cost efficient as a print product — consist of parking lot magnate Katz and cable television pioneer Lenfest, who represent 42 percent ownership, versus insurance executive and South Jersey political power broker Norcross and IGM's three other owners, representing the other 58 percent.


    Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or bmccrone@philly.com. Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.

    Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

    Brian X. McCrone PHILLY.COM
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