WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Workers at Philadelphia's two largest newspapers won't be able to mount a bid for their troubled company, after a wealthy potential backer balked at the projected $77 million opening price.
About 500 unionized employees of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News had hoped to bid at the latest sale of the media company, with help from business tycoon Raymond Perelman. However, Perelman and other potential investors walked away after pondering bids pledged by two current owners.
"The $77 million figure is not something anyone is willing to go near," lawyer Lisa Lori, representing the local Newspaper Guild of America chapter, said Thursday. "Nobody believes the value is that (high)."
That could turn the auction into an ego-fueled showdown between local business magnates George Norcross and Lewis Katz, who lead rival factions among investors who paid about $55 million for the company just two years ago. They are locked in a stalemate over how to run the company, which also operates the Philly.com website.
The company has been left with absent or lame-duck leaders while the two men — and a fleet of lawyers — have squared off in court over various feuds since October.
Delaware Chancery Court Judge Donald Parsons Jr. complained Thursday that the parties claim to be in a hurry to move forward, but don't always act that way.
"It's a little frustrating to me, ... (that) every time I try to get something concrete out of both sides, I don't get it," Parsons said.
Asked about the status of Inquirer editor Bill Marimow, whose contract expires next week, Parsons warned the two sides to work something out. Katz wants Marimow to remain in place. Norcross had tried to fire him last year.
Parsons must soon decide whether to let outsiders bid at the auction, which would involve more of the company's time and money. Katz has proposed a sealed bid auction open to anyone, while Norcross wants a live auction limited to current owners. Parsons questioned Thursday whether anyone else was really interested.