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Hearst, MediaNews settle antitrust suit

Hearst and MediaNews Group have settled with San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly, who was suing the companies for antitrust violations. The deal announced this morning averts a trial that would have begun Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that had the potential of forcing MediaNews to divest itself of the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. The MediaNews chain headed by Dean Singleton acquired those papers for $736 million in August 2006 with money from Hearst Corp., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other investors.

The deal calls for:

Significantly, the Hearst’s Chronicle didn’t agree to give Reilly editorial space or a position on its editorial board.

Hearst said in a statement that the U.S. Justice Department was continuing a review of its deal with MediaNews and that it was confident the companies would be allowed to proceed with their plans.

Reilly said he was “very excited to see that the Chronicle has severed all business or potential editorial ties with MediaNews in the Bay Area.” He said his oversight will “ensure that there will be no reneging on these commitments and there will be vigorous competition between MediaNews papers and the Chronicle in San Francisco.”

Coverage: The Chron’s SFGate.com (11:24 a.m. today); Merc’s first version (11:38); Merc’s second version (11:46); AP (11:48); Press Release.

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