The Santa Barbara Independent entered the next phase of its nearly 30-year history on Monday, when attorney Joseph Cole was appointed by the board of directors as publisher. The move marks the end of a four-year-long legal battle between Editor in Chief Marianne Partridge and former publisher Randy Campbell, who relinquished his majority stake in the newspaper on January 7 and was terminated from his position.
A longtime Santa Barbara resident and former publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, Cole helped bankroll Partridge’s purchase of Campbell’s shares, which was first attempted in the fall of 2009, when Campbell tried to sell his interest to an out-of-town company. Campbell balked when Partridge, exercising her contractual right of first refusal, offered to buy the shares at the same price. She sued over breach of contract, and a series of judges affirmed that Campbell must sell her his shares.
Campbell sued Cole in an attempt to end Cole’s support of Partridge, but that case was dismissed, though Campbell is appealing. Cole began his daily duties on Monday afternoon, when the staff welcomed him with loud and repeated applause during a celebratory meeting that ended with chocolate cake. As publisher, he will manage the paper’s business operations while Partridge remains in control of the editorial side of the building.
“It is with great enthusiasm that I look forward to working with Joe,” said Partridge, who cofounded the paper in 1986 with Campbell but has known Cole for many years. “This is a happy day for The Independent.”