Valassis Wants Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch to Testify in Federal Trial

Last Updated Jan 7, 2010 6:01 AM EST

Valassis (VCI) wants to see Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch questioned on the witness stand in its upcoming federal trial in Detroit. In the case, Valassis alleges that Rupert Murdoch's News America Marketing Group maintained an unlawful monopoly on supermarket advertising, an unglamorous but lucrative media business that places ads and coupons inside thousands of U.S. grocery stores.

Lachlan Murdoch was an exec at NAM's parent, News Corp. (NWS), until 2005; he retains a seat on News Corp.'s board.

Whether the father-son pair will actually reach the witness stand is not certain. Neither appeared at the first Valassis v. NAM trial in Michigan state court. Although the elder Murdoch's name was mentioned at the trial several times nothing came out that concretely linked the Murdochs to NAM's alleged monopolization activities. Valassis won a $300 million verdict in state court after showing that NAM's clients paid higher prices for supermarket ads if they did not also use NAM's newspaper coupon services.

Most of the witnesses on Valassis and NAM's lists are executives of both companies, and some of their clients. Here's a preview of some of the more well-known witnesses: Paul Carlucci The publisher of The New York Post and the CEO of NAM. He admitted showing a scene from the movie The Untouchables to motivate his staff but denies that it was the infamous baseball bat murder scene. He also denies threatening to "destroy" a competing supermarket ad agency, Floorgraphics Inc., that NAM effectivey did destroy before acquiring in a legal settlement.

Peter Chernin Until June 30, 2009, he was the president and COO of News Corp. As with the Murdochs, it's not clear what Chernin's direct knowledge in the case might be. He did not appear at the state trial.

Scott Drill CEO of Insignia Systems (ISIG), a smaller supermarket ad agency that has a relationship with Valassis and a similar case against NAM. He will likely testify how NAM took 1,500 Safeway stores from his agency's ad network.

Robert Emmel A disgruntled former NAM sales exec who left the company taking a computer full of NAM's internal secrets with him. Emmel testified in the state trial that NAM paid supermarkets to decline business with competing agencies.

Debra Lucidi A former Sara Lee exec who once did business with NAM and previously testified that she believed NAM used unfair pricing tactics.

Chris Mixson NAM president who was once accused of threatening Emmel in a courthouse bathroom.

Lachlan Murdoch See above.

Rupert Murdoch See above

Dominick Porco NAM president accused of sending a misleading letter to clients about Insignia's ad placement compliance rates.

George Rebh and Richard Rebh Former owners of Floorgraphics who claim Carlucci invited them to a sit-down near News Corp. HQ and threatened to "destroy" their agency.

Alan Schultz CEO of Valassis who bet the company on this litigation series. He wrongly believed NAM would agree to share the market. He also settled charges with the FTC after a failed attempt to persuade NAM to agree to fix prices. He did not testify at the state trial. Paul Carlucci See above; the fact that he's on both lists suggests he will testify.

Chris Mixson See above.

Alan Schultz See above.

Julie Lynn York A promotions executive at Jack Daniels marketer Brown-Forman and dairy group Land O' Lakes, who previously testified that News America Marketing never coerced her into making newspaper coupon buys, but she did admit over-paying for the agency's services.

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