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Judge May Hear Competing Auction Scenarios In Battle Over Philadelphia's Newspapers

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia judge who adjudicated the first spat between warring owners at the Inquirer and Daily News is about to consider hearing the sequel to this public and very ugly soap opera.

One side, representing owners Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest, has asked Judge Patricia McInerney to dissolve the 2012 partnership that bought the newspaper company, and move forward with a public auction of the company.

A rival faction, led by George Norcross, filed a parallel claim in Delaware for a private auction limited to the current owners.

Now, the Newspaper Guild wants to join the fray.

Guild attorney Lisa Lori has filed the paperwork for the Guild to intervene on behalf of its 550 members, which includes reporters, photographers, editors, and others.

Lori says the Guild wants to join the bidding for the company as well.

"We have people who are interested," she says.

She would not comment about whether the interested parties included a wealthy philanthropist who has previously offered to buy the papers.

Guild executive director Bill Ross says the "company appears to be gridlocked."  The current management agreement gives feuding owners Katz and Norcross each "blocking power" over the other in case of a disagreement.

The Guild says that since 2005 it has seen five different ownership groups take control of, then sell, the company.  It says the Guild has "endured multiple and repeated pay cuts and layoffs, in exchange for unfulfilled promises."

Another pressing issue is who is  running the ship.

Publisher Bob Hall's name remains on the masthead, but he is technically retired as of the first of the year.

Editor Bill Marimow, whose firing by Hall late last year touched off the battle, was reinstated by Judge McInerney's judicial order, but his contract expires in April.

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