Sunday, September 21, 2008

Times columnist on the lawsuit

Times columnist Dan Neil and Phillip Gregory, one of the attorneys representing the employees' lawsuit, was interviewed Friday on KPFK's "Deadline L.A." Listen to it here.

"We want Zell and the Board removed," said Neil. "We want an independent accounting of the company's finances, especially with regard to the pension and we want a say in the future direction of the paper." The lawsuit also seeks return of employee assets.

Asked why he signed on as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Neil said he isn't worried about his own situation, that he and his family will be okay. "What's the worse he [Zell] can do, fire me?" Neil became "more and more infuriated" with what he saw as "the rampant mismanagement by the company."

Lawsuits can take years before a judgement is made. Gregory said that to move the case along quickly, the suit was filled in federal court where it would go before a single judge who could then move to "get the class certified so that the parties suing can effectively represent all employees who belong to the class that the suit is filed on behalf of."

Neil said people are "very encouraged by the suit, if for no practical or legal reason, they just like the idea that somebody is finally pushing back against Zell."

Read More......

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Zell blasts partners; employees’ law firm responds

Sam Zell thinks the lawsuit is frivolous and unnecessary: "We are partners and we need to act like it" he wrote in an email to employees yesterday. Zell admonishes Tribune employees, saying that he and they are "all in this together."

The suit may be more than a shot across his bow. The law firm representing (former and current) LAT staffers wrote (Romenesko Memos):

The current and former Tribune employees are not "all in this together" with Sam Zell. The rank and file employees have their jobs and their current and future retirement plans tied up by the machinations of Zell and his co-fiduciaries. ... [snip]

Zell's comments fail to acknowledge the billions of dollars in debt he caused the Tribune Company to incur, necessitating both the layoffs and the diminishing content of the Company's newspapers. It is unfortunate that, in typical fashion, Sam Zell is ignoring the rights and neglecting the best interests of the hard-working Tribune employees, whom he cynically refers to as "partners." Rather than working with his "partners," he is tearing the company down, brick by brick, and selling it off, in an effort to pay down the massive debt he improperly encumbered the company with. We look forward to cutting through Zell's self-serving, out of touch rhetoric and fighting for our clients -- the Tribune’s real and rightful owners -- in court.
There is nothing frivolous about the mounting employee fear and concern that Zell's house of cards will fall, leaving them all jobless and broke. So rather than stand by and do nothing, the employees are taking action. Given the legal structure of ESOPs, this lawsuit should generate tremendous interest as it winds its way through the courts. The message of the filing is clear: Tribune (current and former) employees have determined they need to use whatever tools they can to fight for their product, their journalism and their livelihood. This lawsuit is one tool available to them and we hope the courts move this one along in a speedy manner.

Read More......

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Employees in LA file class action lawsuit against Zell, Tribune *

From LAObserved : "... lawyers representing current and former Los Angeles Times newsroom staffers are filing a class-action federal lawsuit against Sam Zell and Tribune this morning in Los Angeles, alleging breaches of fiduciary duty, conflicts of interest and other violations of ERISA, the law that safeguards the proper handling of retirement benefits like pensions and trusts."

Interesting timing, given the current crisis in our financial systems. And how will this economic wreck effect Tribune's bank loans and, more importantly, the ESOP?

* WSJ: Six current and former Times employees, including Pulitzer Prize-winning auto critic Dan Neil, former wine and food critic Corie Brown, and former legal affairs writer Henry Weinstein, filed the lawsuit. Document here.

Read More......