Newspapers usually fight attempts to suppress public records, but it appears all documents in Clint Reilly’s antitrust lawsuit against Hearst Corp. and MediaNews will be sealed unless they are public record, the Hearst-owned Chronicle reported today (Sept. 14).
News of the self-imposed secrecy order appeared as a single sentence in the eighth paragraph of a Chronicle business section story that explained Hearst will become a major shareholder of MediaNews, which owns all of the Bay Area’s major dailies except for the Chroncle. Initially, Hearst would own a special type of stock in MediaNews that would not include the company’s Bay Area publications, but later that stock could be exchanged for common stock in MediaNews.
Today’s Chron story states: “Hearst and MediaNews have not disclosed what size stake Hearst would own in MediaNews properties outside the Bay Area.” However, MediaNews said in an Aug. 2 filing with the SEC: “The equity investment will afford Hearst an equity interest of approximately 30% (subject to adjustment in certain circumstances) in the Company’s publications outside the San Francisco Bay area.”
Reilly (pictured), a San Francisco real estate developer and one-time candidate for mayor, has filed a civil suit alleging the deal would create an illegal newspaper monopoly that would result in higher subscription and advertising prices and diminished journalism quality. A Hearst lawyer is quoted as saying the deal won’t create a monopoly because newspapers face intense competition from a wide range of competitors. A trial is set for February. [PPC, Sept. 8: New details in Hearst-MediaNews deal] [PPC, Aug. 23: Anti-trust suit against newspapers isn’t over] [PPC, Aug. 10: Hearst to own 30% of MediaNews]