Judge denies bid to dissolve Inquirer's company in Phila.

Posted: February 09, 2014

The legal dispute among the owners of The Inquirer will shift to Delaware after a Philadelphia judge ruled Friday that it would not continue in her court.

In a brief order, Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia A. McInerney dismissed a request by owners Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest to have her dissolve The Inquirer's parent company, appoint a trustee, and conduct a public auction of the newspaper and other assets.

"This court declines to exercise jurisdiction over said petition," the order said in part.

The two groups of feuding owners both want to dissolve the parent company, Interstate General Media, but have differed on the court and what type of auction to hold for the assets. The jurisdictional decision does not settle what kind of auction will be conducted. A timetable for the dissolution and auction was unclear Friday.

While Katz and Lenfest wanted Philadelphia and a public auction, IGM partners George E. Norcross III, William P. Hankowsky, and Joseph Buckelew want Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Donald F. Parsons to order a private auction for the current owners.

"We look forward to the opportunity to explain why any sale of IGM should be among its current owners as the agreement states," Norcross spokesman Dan Fee said in a statement.

IGM, which also includes Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, operates from Philadelphia, but is registered in Delaware.

"I'm pleased, of course, but not surprised by the judge's decision, because I think she was enforcing the [partnership] agreement," said Robert Heim, lead attorney for the Norcross group.

In November, McInerney ruled in favor of Katz and Lenfest by reinstating Inquirer editor William K. Marimow. She also ruled in favor of the Norcross group, which sought to keep publisher Robert F. Hall, who had fired Marimow.

In a statement, Richard Sprague, lead attorney for Katz and Lenfest, said the judge's ruling was not unexpected. He did not address the possibility of an appeal, but said: "We are confident that the Delaware Chancery Court will agree with our position that the best way to achieve the maximum value for the company is through a fair, open, and public auction."

Parsons said at a hearing Tuesday that he had spoken to McInerney and planned to consult with her again before a ruling on where the case would be heard.

IGM attorney Marc Sonnenfeld said the decision "reflects a consensus of the two judges."



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