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McCaw Seeks $25 Million from Roberts

Wendy Trumps Jerry Roberts at $25 Million


Monday, January 15, 2007
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First, Wendy McCaw (pictured) demanded $500,000 from ex-News-Press editor Jerry Roberts. Then, I learned this week, he counter-claimed at $10 million (which was also reported in the January 15 New York Times article). Now I find that she’s filed an amended arbitration claim for $25 million.

By Shannon Kelley

Wendy McCaw

Where will it end? I figure Roberts will leave it at that.

And when will Wendy’s arbitration action against her former editor go before an arbitrator? “No hearing has been set,” Andrine Smith, attorney for Roberts (pictured below), told me after I badgered her for info. Not this month, apparently. Jerry%20Roberts.jpg

These arbitration matters are supposed to be strictly confidential. But News-Press attorney David Millstein spilled the beans about Roberts’ $10 million counterclaim to New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman, whose story appeared Monday. One choice excerpt from Waxman’s story: “When asked why Mrs. McCaw has consistently chosen legal action when she has felt wronged, rather than engaging in dialogue with readers or her news staff, [Millstein] said, 'A cease-and-desist letter is a form of dialogue.'"

When I called Roberts’ attorney to confirm the $10 million counterclaim, Smith said that since Millstein let the cat out of the bag, she felt free to tell me about Wendy’s $25 million upgrade. Who’ll get what out of this, besides the lawyers, I can’t imagine.

Readers following this sorry saga will recall that after Roberts resigned July 6 in the midst of a staff meltdown, owner Wendy filed the arbitration action, reportedly claiming breach of contract and that he’d somehow damaged the paper. Just how he supposedly caused this totally unnecessary train wreck is a mystery, but we all know what McCaw has done. She’s also made statements trashing his reputation, which I assume is the basis of his counter-claim.

In a commentary both funny and poignant, Roberts wrote in last Thursday’s Independent about his bout with lymphatic stomach cancer during the holidays while in the Bay Area. He’s now back in Santa Barbara and teaching Adult Ed.

Shut Up: After my Indy interview with Randy Alcorn, 23-year chief financial officer at the News-Press, about his firing, he got a letter from the busy Mr. Millstein. (According to the NY Times, the letter was "nailed to his door.") It reportedly pointed out that as a former officer of the paper he had a fiduciary responsibility not to disclose N-P info. And if he did, the N-P would take action. (No surprise there.)

So, with two kids in college, Alcorn is refusing all interviews. “I don’t want to say anything,” he told me.

Meanwhile, a going-away party is scheduled for Wednesday at Playa Azul restaurant at 5 p.m. for Toni McDonald, who held a key accounting post at the paper and was a major loss when she quit soon after Alcorn got the heave-ho.

Friendly Skies? United will reduce its flights in and out of Santa Barbara beginning February 14, according to Santa Barbara Travel Bureau. united.gif United plans to drop the 7:40 a.m. flight to Denver and the 8:55 p.m. flight from Denver to Santa Barbara.

“The loss of the 8:55 flight is going to be a real problem for many travelers returning from points east who are trying to get a work day in before flying to Santa Barbara,” the travel agency said in its online newsletter. “We have expressed our concerns to United about this schedule decrease.”

Who Are They?: During last week’s NLRB hearings here, Santa Barbara News-Press co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger (pictured) denied that he’s the Neville Flynn who posts pro-News-Press comments on Blogabarbara. Arthur%20von%20Wiesenberger%20Web.jpg That not only raises the question of who the apparent N-P insider apologist really is but who is Sara de la Guerra, nom de plume of the person behind the blog? I’ve heard some pretty good guesses on both, but wouldn’t it spoil the fun to let the cat out of the bag?

Speaking of Blogs: The first thing thousands of Santa Barbarans look for every morning before reading the daily paper is Craig Smith’s informative online column. Craig’s not a sofa blogger, either. He gets out there.

This past week Craig, a lawyer by profession, was sitting in at the News-Press-Teamster NLRB hearings, just days after returning from a trip to Cuba. One week in Havana was “a fascinating experience,” he told me. He found the people “warm and friendly,” as I did when I visited twice.

The hottest topic of conversation? Not Fidel’s health (not always a healthy subject) but “beisbol.” Castro, by the way, was a top baseball player as a young man.

On Friday, Craig took serious issue with a letter in last week’s Independent in which N-P attorney Barry Cappello wrote: "When Mrs. McCaw acquired the News-Press, she saved it from the disgrace of insolvency. After years of losing money, the paper was going to be closed or sold off to a national chain with no local input or control."

Replied Craig, “Au contraire. Both the New York Times and the American Journalism Review have reported that when McCaw bought the paper it had a profit percentage of 11 percent, which is higher than most Fortune 500 companies. The New York Times distributed a ‘bid book’ as part of its selling effort in 2000. The book showed that the News-Press was far from the ‘disgrace of insolvency.’ In fact, it was enjoying record profits. Which is probably why McCaw might have paid as much as $150 million for the paper.”

deathproof.jpg Shoot Over: Quentin Tarantino’s two-month shoot of his film project Death Proof/Grind House went smoothly (which was first reported at Independent.com's A&E Blog), according to Martine White, county film commissioner. The weather was “extraordinary, she said, adding, “We’re delighted that they chose Santa Barbara County to match Tennessee.” Death Proof is said to be a car-slasher flick with Kurt Russell, while Planet Terror is about aliens on a rampage. I fail to see any Oscars in their futures.

Adios, Munster Mom: Yvonne De Carlo, who played the vampirish mom in the TV series The Munsters, lived near Solvang for many years until fairly recently moving to L.A., where she died last week at 84.

(Barney Brantingham can be reached at 805-965-5205 or barney@independent.com. He writes a Tuesday online column, a Thursday print column and a Barney’s Weekend Picks on Fridays.)

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