Newspaper War

The Pioneer Press accuses turncoat publisher Par Ridder of stealing company property and poaching top employees.

"Par stole that file on his last day," says Singleton, of MediaNews Group. "He pulled it out of the hands of his secretary and took it with him."

Ridder's duplicity continued after he started in the new post, according to the lawsuit. He began recruiting other top officials from the Pioneer Press to join him at the Star Tribune. On March 28, Jennifer Parratt, the Pioneer Press's director of targeted publications, informed company officials that she was leaving to take a similar job with the Star Tribune. The very next day, Kevin Desmond, the Pioneer Press's vice president of operations, resigned to take an identical post at the competing daily. Singleton says that as many as six other top officials at the St. Paul daily were also recruited by Ridder.

People who have worked with Ridder express shock at the allegations. "That just does not sound like Par," says Marti Buscaglia, publisher of the Duluth News Tribune, who previously worked as vice president of marketing at the Pioneer Press. "It's just not his style. He's a person of integrity." (Ridder, Desmond, and Parratt did not return calls from City Pages seeking comment for this story.)

Will the real Par Ridder please stand up?
David Witt
Will the real Par Ridder please stand up?

The Pioneer Press wants a court order barring Ridder and the other two former employees from working at the Star Tribune for a year. It also wants a judge to bar the Strib from attempting to hire any of its employees for two years. In addition, the St. Paul daily wants all of its property and proprietary business information returned.

But the civil lawsuit might be only the beginning of Ridder's legal troubles.

"I think it's fair to say that authorities are involved," Singleton says, "but that's not my job. My job is to get all of the stolen data back, to make sure it doesn't get used, and to make sure the Star Tribune honors the agreements of the people who work for us. Whether there are things to be addressed by the law enforcement authorities, that will take its own road."

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