N.J. Judge Tosses Lawsuit over Tribune Appraisal

N.J. Judge Tosses Lawsuit over Tribune Appraisal

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A New Jersey judge has rejected a lawsuit by former owners of The Salt Lake Tribune who claim their efforts to regain control are being blocked by an appraisal that is far beyond the paper's actual worth.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Neil Shuster said case's appearance in his court was an attempt to "circumvent" a federal court in Utah where the newspaper's ownership has been in dispute since 2000.

The most recent appraisal of the Tribune, $352.2 million, is up to $150 million more than the paper's true value, according to Salt Lake Tribune Publishing Co., the group owned primarily by the McCarthey family.

That appraisal has not been finalized by Management Planning Inc., a valuation firm headquartered in Princeton, N.J.

Tribune Publishing's lawsuit -- which claimed MPI's appraisal methods lacked "professional standards" -- was an attempt to keep the appraisal from becoming final.

MPI was jointly hired by Tribune Publishing and MediaNews last year because initial appraisals were tens of millions of dollars apart.

Any future challenge to Management Planning's final report -- not due before early next week -- "is more appropriately sought in Utah, within the litigation concerning the option agreement," Shuster wrote.

Tribune Publishing filed a federal lawsuit two years ago seeking to reverse the sale of The Tribune from former owner AT&T to MediaNews and to validate its option to buy the newspaper in 2002.

A judge ruled the Tribune Publishing's option to buy the paper was valid but that the Deseret News could rightly veto any potential buyer. The News has rejected Tribune Publishing's purchase.

The McCartheys have said February's ruling in a Denver federal appeals court will allow it to buy the paper without the News' consent.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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