A Delaware judge on Friday ordered that the parent company of the Inquirer should be dissolved in a private auction among its current owners.

Donald F. Parsons Jr., Delaware Court of Chancery vice chancellor, said the auction should be held no later than May 28.

The ruling means ownership of the newspaper and related properties of Interstate General Media Holdings L.L.C. will remain, at least temporarily, with one of the current partners.

The 43-page decision was a victory for George E. Norcross III, the co-owner who has argued for a private auction and has pledged to bid at least $77 million to win control of the company.

Owners Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest had preferred a public auction with single sealed bids. Katz had testified that he would bid $77 million in a public auction.

The owners agreed that dissolving their partnership was necessary after Katz and Norcross, the two managing directors with veto power over major business decisions, could not agree on how to operate the company.

IGM also owns The Philadelphia Daily News, three web sites and a printing plant.

Norcross and Katz make up the two-man management committee that is supposed to make all major decisions for IGM. The rival factions of owners have been battling over the fate of the company since last fall.