(CN) – New Times Media, owner of more than a dozen weeklies, including the Village Voice and the San Francisco Weekly, wants the Delaware Chancery Court to stop its Bay-area rival the San Francisco Bay Guardian from seizing and selling its assets while it appeals a $16 million judgment for fixing prices on advertising. New Times fired the latest shot in a battle that has raged between the two alternative weeklies for several years.
New Times seeks a ruling that a charging order issued in California on Jan. 6, allowing the Guardian to place a lien on New Times’ assets, is unenforceable under Delaware law, where most of New Times’ papers are registered.
The order states that the Bay Guardian Company has a lien on all of New Times’ assets so long as New Times fails to pay the $16 million judgment (now more than $20 million with interest and fees, according to the Bay Guardian).
A jury found in 2008 that New Times, San Francisco Weekly and East Bay Express Publishing conspired to artificially lower prices for alternative newspaper advertising in the Bay Area in a scheme to drive the locally owned Bay Guardian out of business.
The judgment is on appeal, but New Times has not posted a bond for the judgment, according to the Bay Guardian, whose attorney told the San Francisco Chronicle that, with the charging order in place, the Guardian Co. “can try to enforce the lien by asking for a court order to foreclose and sell any of the New Times publications, including the SF Weekly, the LA Weekly and Village Voice, or appoint a receiver who could transfer money from the accounts of the parent company or its newspapers,” according to the complaint.
But New Times claims that under Delaware law a charging order “cannot, as a matter of law, convey any right of levy, foreclosure, or lien against New Times Media’s interests in Delaware entities.”
New Times seeks a declaratory judgment on whether the charging order “constitutes a foreclosable lien” and an injunction stopping the Bay Guardian from seizing its assets.
New Times is represented by Gregory Williams of Richards Layton in Wilmington, Del.