Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tiny Ridder Testifies

Par Ridder (former publisher of the Pioneer Press) claims he didn't intend to harm the St. Paul Pioneer Press when he took confidential computer files from his job there to his new post as publisher and CEO of the rival Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

The spreadsheets contained sensitive data on advertising, finances and personnel. He was only, he claimed, going to reproduce the forms. Of course, he shared the spreadsheets with at least two other Star Tribune officials but only so they could re-create the spreadsheets using Star Tribune data, adapted to how the Star Tribune conducted business. If you believe that.

From the Washington Post:
"I had profit numbers, revenue numbers, expense numbers" and sensitive information on advertisers and personnel, he said.
He also took a folder of noncompete agreements, including his own agreement.

Par Ridder is the son of Knight Ridder Chairman Tony Ridder who sold the Pioneer Press to McClatchy newspapers who sold it to MediaNews.

There were other witnesses.
Two of Ridder's new bosses also testified by video. OhSang Kwon, a partner with Avista Capital Partners, which owns the Star Tribune, said Ridder had told him when they were hiring him that his noncompete agreement had been repealed, and he wasn't sure if it was valid in the first place. James Finkelstein, another partner at Avista, said Ridder should not have brought the confidential computer documents with him to the Star Tribune.
Par Ridder, 38, testifed that Art Brisbane released them from the noncompete agreements, but Brisbane said he couldn't recall discussing the matter. Furthermore, Brisbane testified he was sure that he would have consulted with other Knight Ridder executives before canceling Ridder's noncompete agreement, including Tony Ridder.

The Houston Chronicle: ""I didn't plan on using the Pioneer Press financials," Ridder testified, because it would have given him and the Star Tribune an "unfair advantage" in the competitive Twin Cities newspaper market."

The Star Tribune is, of course, denying that tiny Ridder and two executives violated employment agreements by coming to work at the paper. The Pioneer Press wants the three executives - Paul Ridder, Kevin Desmond, the Star Tribune's senior vice president of operations, and Jennifer Parratt, its director of niche publications, banned from working for the Star Tribune for at least a year.

THIS IS probably not important unless you follow the media business, but Tiny Ridder was always a major loser who oversaw an intentially non-competing newspaper. The fact is that he wanted to continue to cripple any possible competition.
FOR UPDATE on how this turned out, go here. (Short version: The Star Tribune paid $3.4 million legal fees to the Pioneer Press. The union voted to ask Tiny Ridder to quit. A judge finally ordered him to leave the paper for a year and the judge had some juicy comments to make about it.)

No comments: