LAS VEGAS (CN) – A recent change in ownership of the company that owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal ended a federal antitrust suit from its competitor.
U.S. District Judge James Mahan on Tuesday issued a final ruling denying attorneys’ fees and costs to former Review-Journal owner Stephens Media, after dismissing the antitrust suit against it as moot.
Review-Journal owner Brian Greenspun in August 2013 accused Stephens Media of violating the Clayton Antitrust Act and Nevada’s Unfair Trade Practice Act when it tried to buy the Las Vegas Sun.
Greenspun’s father, Hank, founded the Las Vegas Sun in 1950. In the original complaint, Greenspun called the Sun an “alternative editorial voice” for Las Vegas, with “differing or competing views and values than the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”
Greenspun is the Sun’s CEO, publisher and editor. The Sun won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its series on construction-related deaths on the Strip.
The Review-Journal, a broadsheet, dominated the Sun in circulation. The Sun, a traditional spunky tabloid, prided itself on its local reporting and an editorial page far more moderate than the right-wing Review Journal.
The Sun and Review-Journal in 1989 entered into a joint operating agreement, in which the Review-Journal would handle all printing, advertising and circulation costs for the Sun. The agreement was intended to keep the Sun economically viable until at least 2040.
Defendant Stephens Media in 2005 agreed to allow the Sun to use the Vegas.com domain in exchange for $12 million and a monthly fee until 2040, Greenspun said in the complaint.
Then in 2013, Stephens Media offered to end the joint operating agreement as of Sept. 1, 2013, buy the lasvegassun.com URL and pay $25,000 each to Greenspun and his three siblings.
Greenspun said the deal required them to sign a non-compete agreement that would ban him and his siblings from “engaging in the ‘local news business (either print or on-line)’ for five years.”
Although his siblings were interested in the deal, Greenspun opposed it and filed the federal complaint to stop it for antitrust reasons.
Greenspun said the deal would require the Sun to cease operations as a print and online newspaper, eliminating the only local competition the Review-Journal has and depriving area residents of a choice of print news sources.
He sought declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the proposed sale.
This February, however, the New Media Investment Group of New York agreed to buy Stephens Media and its eight Nevada newspapers for $102.5 million, which rendered Greenspun’s complaint moot.
The sale included the Review-Journal, which claims a Sunday circulation of 184,000 and an average of 10.5 million website views each month.
In July 2104, Greenspun filed a voluntary motion to dismiss without prejudice , saying Stephens Media no longer needed to defend itself.
Mahan in September granted the motion to dismiss without prejudice. In October, Stephens Media filed a motion seeking $200,800.50 in attorney’s fees and $387 in costs.
Mahan on Tuesday found that Stephens Media gave no “statutory or contractual basis for the court to impose attorney’s fees” and denied the motion.
Greenspun was represented by E. Leif Reid with Lewis and Roca, Stephens Media by Donald Campbell with Campbell & Williams.
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