Big-shot lawyers are known to carry around some hefty egos. But sometimes the client’s self-worth plays an even bigger role in litigation.
Such was the case when Clint Reilly, a Democratic Party honcho, settled an antitrust suit April 25 against some of the nation’s largest media companies. The suit aimed to block a newspaper swap that Reilly once claimed would give rise to a veritable media monopoly.
So what’s in the deal Reilly worked out for newspaper readers? Evidently, we all get to read whatever’s on Reilly’s mind. Seriously. Reilly reportedly negotiated a quarter-page of space in the local sections of each MediaNews paper. Reilly can apparently use that space to practice his own writing once a week for three years. The one-time S.F. mayoral candidate also gets to sit on the editorial board of one MediaNews paper.
In a complaint filed last summer, Reilly’s lawyers painted their man as a defender of all the little newspaper readers. Or readers of little newspapers. Unless a federal judge blocked the deal worth almost $750 million, they said, readers would be deprived of media content “that would otherwise be available under free competition.”
The settlement puts a few limits on how much some media companies can collaborate in the Bay Area market, but not much oversight unless your name is Clint Reilly.
John McManus, who was hired by Reilly as an expert witness to testify at trial, sounded a tad disappointed as he recently described the settlement. The deal, which McManus said was hashed out over a weekend meeting between Reilly and MediaNews boss Dean Singleton, means the “last best chance to undo media monopoly [in the Bay Area] has now slipped away.”
Lawyers and political observers will recognize the settlement as an ego stroke in the proud tradition of former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
Bustamante, you might remember, once sued out-of-state energy companies for bilking consumers during the California energy crisis. Some estimated that California consumers had lost a billion dollars, but Bustamante agreed to settle with the companies for about $5 million apiece, plus an endowed professorship named after him.
— Matthew Hirsch