The president of The Inquirer's largest union says its parent company is not worth $77 million, the minimum bid that two rival co-owners pledged if the company goes to auction.
"We believe $77 million is too much money," said Howard Gensler, president of the Newspaper Guild's Local 10.
Gensler's remarks, in an interview Tuesday, come as Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Donald F. Parsons prepares to choose a format for the sale of Interstate General Media Holdings L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and three websites. Parsons is scheduled to hear lawyers' arguments Thursday on the matter. It is not clear how soon he will rule.
Co-owners Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, along with co-owner George E. Norcross III, have agreed to dissolve IGM because of irreconcilable differences. Katz and Lenfest prefer a public auction with single sealed bids. Norcross and co-owners Joseph Buckelew and William P. Hankowsky prefer a private auction among current owners.
Norcross testified that the minimum bid for a private auction should be $77 million to cover the owners' investment and current debts. Katz testified that he would bid $77 million in a public auction.
Parsons let the Newspaper Guild, which represents 480 IGM employees, intervene in the case and potentially join the bidding.
Lawyers for two possible Guild partners in the bidding - the philanthropist Raymond Perelman and the union's parent organization, the Communications Workers of America - were scheduled to get company financial information this week.
Gensler said he had not seen the information but said the current owners' pledges might be bluffs.
"Until one of them puts $77 million down on the table, this is all talk," said Gensler, a columnist with the Daily News. "If one of them is really willing to do that when push comes to shove, they are going to overpay for a company that is not worth $77 million.
"If that is the business decision they choose to make, then there is not much we can do about it, but I sure hope they are not going to come after us to get the money back."
Guild members agreed to pay cuts and furloughs demanded by the current owners after they bought the company in 2012. Perelman has twice said he would not pay that much for the company.
"I don't think anybody will pay $77 million," he said Tuesday.
It was unclear whether Perelman had seen the financial information at the time of his comments, and he could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The CWA's Bernie Lunzer said Wednesday by e-mail that CWA officials were completing the nondisclosure agreements before reviewing the financial information, but declined further comment.