the newspaper chain controlled by the Little Rock-based Stephens financial empire, is now in a court fight over a deal it has put together to end a newspapwer joint operating agreement between its dominant Las Vegas Review-Journal
and the Las Vegas Sun.
The JOA was given Justice Department antitrust approval in 1989, when Donrey owned the bigger paper, to keep competing newspaper voices alive in Las Vegas. The bigger paper has generally been immensely profitable, though not so much in recent recession and real estate-bust years.
Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun
has sued Stephens Media over a deal it has struck with three other Greenspun family members to terminate the JOA. That would end Stephens Media's obligation to print and distribute the Sun as an advertising-free supplement to its newspaper. In return, the Greenspuns would gain control of the webpage lasvegas.com, which is currently leased to the Greenspuns and used by the local convention bureau for hotel advertising and other promotions. The JOA, currently paying the Greenspuns more than $1 million a year, otherwise wil run until 2040. From the Sun's account:
"The marketplace of ideas is as important to the United States as the marketplace of business," Leif Reid, one of Brian Greenspun's attorneys, said in a statement. "This is an effort to suppress both by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Review-Journal is attempting to eliminate the Las Vegas Sun's alternative editorial voice — not just in print, but also on the Internet. Paying to eliminate a competitor is clearly monopolistic and illegal."
The lawsuit also said:
The termination of the 2005 JOA, and impending closure of the Las Vegas Sun and its website, will have adverse effects on competition by, among other things, reducing output (both quantity and quality) of newspapers, increasing subscribers’ costs to purchase a newspaper, and reducing the opportunities available for online advertisers
It's not a JOA, but Stephens Media has something of a similar profit-sharing relationship in Northwest Arkansas with Walter Hussman's dominant Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
, which prints and distributes remnant Stephens newspapers in Washington and Benton County along with the D-G. Wonder if a trade is possible up there?
Here's a link to the Stephens paper's