Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

withdraw their
motion to dismiss suit

By Debra Barayuga


The owners of Honolulu's two major daily newspapers have withdrawn a motion to dismiss the state's antitrust suit that is preventing the closure of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

John Lacy, local counsel for Gannett, owner of the Honolulu Advertiser, confirmed yesterday that the motion has been withdrawn but declined to comment further. Gannett officials in Arlington, Va., could not be reached.

Deputy Attorney General Rodney Kimura, who expected Gannett to file documents yesterday responding to the state's opposition to dismissal, said he instead received notice from Gannett of its intention to withdraw its motion. He did not know why the motion was withdrawn.

A hearing on the motion had been set for Feb. 7 before U.S. District Judge Alan Kay.

The state sued Gannett and Liberty Newspapers, owner of the Star-Bulletin, after the pair announced plans in mid-September to end a joint operating agreement and stop publishing the afternoon daily Oct. 30.

But the closure was blocked when Kay granted the state a preliminary injunction on Oct 13. The owners lost an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and last week lost a request to have their appeal heard by a larger court panel.

The agreement to shut down the Star-Bulletin is set to expire tomorrow unless Gannett and Liberty agree to extend it.

Liberty Newspapers attorney Alan Marx declined comment on what action the owners are taking, if any, regarding the "drop-dead" date.

Mike Fisch, Advertiser president and publisher, said he is not involved in discussions about the termination agreement and has not been given instructions regarding tomorrow's expiration.

Under the termination agreement, Gannett was to pay Liberty a lump sum of $26.5 million, slightly less than what it would have received as guaranteed payments under the joint operating agreement, which was to expire in 2012.

Media critic Ben Bagdikian said he can only speculate on why Gannett withdrew its dismissal motion.

Either Gannett had no confidence in an immediate dismissal and is saving court costs, or something is going on that may make their original request for dismissal superfluous, Bagdikian said.

Paper's shutdown on hold

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