Political powerbroker George Norcross is now the majority owner of Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers, although a rival holds equal power under their managing partnership.
Norcross, a New Jersey-based insurance executive, doubled his holdings to 53 percent of Interstate General Media after buying another investor’s stake, according to an announcement Monday. The move comes as the feuding owners jockey in court for control of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philly.com website. (Norcross serves as executive chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew.)
Norcross, fellow business tycoon Lewis Katz and other local investors bought the company last year for $55 million. But Norcross and Katz make up the thorny two-man managing committee, which must agree on key decisions.
Their simmering dispute blew open in October when editor Bill Marimow was fired. Katz supported Marimow, while Norcross wanted him out.
A judge last month overturned the firing, ruling that Katz, the former New Jersey Nets owner, had been cut out of the decision. Norcross has appealed.
“After years of poor management that led to bankruptcy, layoffs and jeopardized pensions, the company has gone from losing almost $50,000 a day to being on the path to profitability,” the Norcross faction, which holds 58 percent of the company, said in a statement Monday.
Norcross, Katz and technology entrepreneur Kris Singh had each invested $16 million for 26.3 percent shares of the company in April 2012, while philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest chipped in $10 million for a 16 percent share. Norcross did not disclose what he paid for Singh’s shares. Singh, president and CEO of technology company Holtec International, did not immediately return a message Monday.
Lenfest, a local philanthropist who supports Katz, said the stock sale would not change the dynamics of the dispute, since the shares were already in the Norcross voting bloc.
“Personally, I like Kris Singh, and I’m sorry he won’t be involved,” Lenfest said.
A spokesman for Katz said Monday’s development “changes nothing.”
“The court has ruled on the manner in which the company is governed, and that has nothing to do with the percentage of ownership of stock,” spokesman Jay Devine said. “The company is managed by two managing partners, both of whom must agree before action can be taken.”
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