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Thane Ritchie, who’s suing the Star Tribune, bids for Newsweek

Newsweek magazine is up for grabs (though the money-losing weekly seems more like a hot potato), and guess what? One of the bidders is suing our very own Star Tribune!
By David Brauer

Newsweek magazine is up for grabs (though the money-losing weekly seems more like a hot potato), and guess what? One of the bidders is suing our very own Star Tribune!

I’ve written about Chicagoan Thane Ritchie’s “bogus, dangerous” lawsuit against the Star Tribune several times. The potential media mogul, who invested with scamster Tom Petters through Ritchie Capital Management LLC, is infuriated that the courts and conservator Doug Kelley won’t give him back more of his foolish investment. He bankrolled the “Stop the Petters Scam Foundation,” which purchased a 15-part ad series in the Strib taking shots at U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman, among others.

The Strib cancelled the ad campaign nine parts in, refunding all of Ritchie’s dough, even for the ads that ran. In the suit, Ritchie alleges that “powerful figures” may somehow have forced the Strib to kill his campaign — even though the final ads ended up running in the Pioneer Press, which like the Strib, made its call as a private business within its rights to do so. 

Ritchie’s ad man, Bill Hillsman, knew the Strib’s long-held practice allowing it to cancel any ad at any time, reiterated in the standard advocacy advertising application sent to Hillsman’s North Woods Advertising. One reason newspapers have such provisions is to avoid libel, experts note; the famous New York Times v. Sullivan case was based on an ad.

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But Ritchie wants his pound of flesh, so the rich guy is sucking dough from journalists to pursue his vendetta. Just the guy you want owning a credible national magazine!

Journalists covering the Newsweek sale have referenced Ritchie’s flirtation with creating a third political party, which, like the lawsuit, the party talk is abetted by former Minnesota Sen. Dean Barkley, now a barrister with Phil Villaume’s firm. But the national scribes haven’t seemed to notice Ritchie’s bleed-the-local-media strategy.

The Strib lawsuit is languishing at the moment. In March, the newspaper asked Hennepin County Judge Tanya Bransford to toss the case “on the pleadings” — basically, that the legal theories are so lame Ritchie hasn’t earned the right to grill his perceived enemies on the witness stand. She hasn’t yet ruled, though Ritchie lawyer Phil Villaume says the 90-day review period is almost up.

Ritchie wants to subpoena Klobuchar, Coleman, Kelley and U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery, among others, but discovery has been stopped. Villaume says the only person deposed so far was a non-headliner featured in one of the ads that ran, who said that after publication, she was contacted by Kelley’s office wanting to know why she was in the ads and who paid for them.