Raymond Perelman, the wealthy Philadelphia philanthropist, is interested in making a third attempt at buying the Daily News, the Inquirer , their websites and Philly.com by providing financial backing to the Newspaper Guild during an upcoming auction of the papers' parent company, Interstate General Media.
Bill Ross, executive director of the Guild - which represents reporters, photographers and advertising and circulation employees - revealed Perelman's potential involvement yesterday in Delaware Chancery Court, as Judge Donald F. Parsons Jr. heard another round of arguments about how the auction should unfold.
Ross testified that the Communication Workers of America also is interested in backing the Guild's push to acquire IGM.
"The only reason we don't have any firm commitments is that we haven't received the financial information we've requested" from IGM, Ross said.
Several other philanthropists and private equity firms also have expressed an interest in partnering with the guild, he said.
The union has long toyed with mounting a bid to buy the papers, but got serious after agreeing to a concessionary contract in 2013, only to see IGM's owners fail to follow through on a pledge to implement a profit-sharing plan this year, Ross said.
The company has spent more than $700,000 on legal fees related to the current court battle.
"I think we look at our group as an insider group," Ross testified. "We know how this business runs."
Warring IGM co-owners George Norcross III and Lewis Katz vowed in court earlier this week to each bid a minimum of $77 million for the company.
Norcross wants a private auction - limited to himself, Katz, co-owner H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and the guild - that would see the bids rise in $1 million increments.
Katz and Lenfest want a public auction that could be open to any number of bidders, all of whom would submit a single, sealed bid.
Each faction deployed experts - and small armies of lawyers - to argue the merits of the private and public auctions.
Parsons met privately with both sides yesterday afternoon, and could render his decision during a hearing next Thursday.
Perelman, who is in his mid-90s, tried to buy the newspapers during a bankruptcy auction in 2010. He expressed an interest in buying them again in 2012, but was excluded by the company's hedge-fund owners from participating. That auction ultimately was won by the group led by Norcross and Katz.