The largest employee union at the parent company of The Inquirer can join the legal dispute between rival owners and can potentially make its own bid for its newspapers and websites, a Delaware judge ruled Monday.

"I'm thrilled," said Bill Ross, executive director of the Newspaper Guild, which represents about 550 of the nearly 1,800 employees at Interstate General Media Holdings L.L.C. IGM also owns the Philadelphia Daily News, three websites, and a printing plant. "I think the judge recognized our involvement. Once it is determined which type of auction it will be, I think we'll be in a position to discuss who our potential bidders might be."

Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Donald F. Parsons wrote Monday that the "Guild should have an opportunity to be heard" on its issues related to how IGM is dissolved. The Guild and the owners agree the dispute between the owners over how to run the media company is so strained that ending the partnership makes sense. Parsons will hear arguments over three days next week in Wilmington before deciding what type of auction will follow. It is unclear how quickly he will rule.

Owners George E. Norcross III, Joseph Buckelew, and William Hankowsky prefer a private auction among the current owners, and they objected to Guild intervention. Owners Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest prefer a public auction with single, sealed bids submitted by qualified individuals or groups. Katz and Lenfest did not object to the Guild's intervening.

"The Guild seeks to intervene to oppose strict private auction," Guild attorneys Lisa Lori and Sean M. Brennecke wrote in their request to intervene in the case, "and, in the event a private auction is ordered, to be permitted to participate in the bidding process to acquire IGM's assets."

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