U.S. District Judge Susan Illston (left) said Wednesday (Nov. 22) that she may temporarily halt MediaNews Group and Chronicle owner Hearst Corp. from collaborating on national advertising sales and newspaper distribution in the Bay Area, according to a report by Karen Gullo of Bloomberg News. Illston said she may grant a temporary restraining order to real estate investor Clint Reilly, who claims in a lawsuit that Dean Singleton’s MediaNews and Hearst are conspiring to fix newspaper ad prices and eliminate competition in the Bay Area. The companies deny the claims. Singleton acquired the Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, the No. 2 and No. 3 Bay Area papers, from the McClatchy Co. in August. The $1 billion deal included at least $263 million from Hearst in return for a 30 percent interest in MediaNews’s assets outside the Bay Area. MediaNews and Hearst plan to attract national ad revenue by offering one contract for all three papers, lawyers said. The two companies have also said they plan to collaborate on delivery of newspapers.
Before Wednesday’s hearing, Editor & Publisher Online carried an interview with Joe Alioto, the attorney representing Reilly, who said that he would submit a new motion for a temporary restraining order that was based on new evidence he uncovered since a previous hearing, when Illston shot down his request for a TRO halting the $1 billion deal. Alioto said he would like to reveal the new evidence publicly, but Hearst and MediaNews obtained a court order in September sealing all documents in the case that had not previously been made public. “[W]e’re very upset about and that we can’t understand why media companies are not coming to the court and advocating for making public these documents just as they are in any other case,” Alioto said. [Chronicle’s version of the story] [MediaNews/Mercury News version]