Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Norcross takes the stand in newspaper-sale hearing

Co-owner says private auction is the quickest way to resolve things

NOW LOOK: We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.

That, in so many words, was the message a Delaware Chancery Court judge heard yesterday during the first of three hearings to determine how the looming sale of the Daily News, Inquirer and should unfold.

George Norcross III, the co-managing partner of the papers' parent company, Interstate General Media, reiterated his desire for a private auction that would be limited to a small group of players: Norcross, IGM co-managing partner Lewis Katz, chairman H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and, possibly, financial backers aligned with the Newspaper Guild.

The bidding would start around $77 million, Norcross proposed, and then rise in $1 million increments until somebody cried uncle.

Norcross said the private auction would provide the quickest resolution to the ongoing ownership battle that has clouded the company's future. Norcross and his allies, Bill Hankowsky and Joe Buckelew, are on one side, and Katz and Lenfest are on the other.

"Whether you favor one side or another, they [employees] want an end to this," he testified.

Christine Bonanducci, IGM's vice president of human resources, testified that amid all of the uncertainty, a number of key management positions have been left unfilled, and employee morale has plummeted.

Katz and Lenfest favor an open auction that could attract an unknown number of bidders, all of whom would be required to submit a single "blind" bid.

This approach, Norcross contended, would cause the sale process to drag on even longer, as potential bidders who are unfamiliar with IGM would require additional time to review the company's assets.

Collins Seitz, Katz's lawyer, argued that the Newspaper Guild's backers would need to do the same kind of due diligence.

Norcross said IGM posted losses in 2012 and 2013, and the company's advertising and circulation numbers have continued to fall. Still, he said, he believes the company can be successful because there is "a thirst in this region for local news."

Seitz, meanwhile, said an expert hired by Norcross' faction reported that IGM's "net revenue" is up 32 percent thus far this year.