Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Express Executives Sued By Paper's Former Owner

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 4:38 PM

An entity controlled by Village Voice Media, the newspaper chain that formerly owned the East Bay Express, has filed suit against two of the Express' current owners, Hal Brody and Stephen Buel, claiming that they owe $500,000 as part of the 2007 deal in which the paper went independent. According to the suit filed in federal court in Oakland by Eastbay Express Publishing LP, an entity controlled by Village Voice Media, Brody and Buel signed a promissory note, saying they would pay the $500,000 by May 17, 2009. It was to be the final payment installment in the 2007 deal in which Village Voice Media sold the Express to Brody, Buel, and several other investors for an undisclosed sum. Brody and Buel also personally guaranteed payment of the money. But Brody said he and his business partners decided not to pay the $500,000 because they contend that Village Voice Media owes the Express more money than the Express owes them. "Quite a bit more," Brody said. "It's actually over $2 million."

When Village Voice Media sold the paper, it signed a non-compete clause with the new owners, promising that its newspaper, the SF Weekly, would not to try to poach the Express' advertisers and employees. But according to Brody, the SF Weekly has violated the agreement repeatedly. "They violated it the day we walked in the door, and have consistently violated it," he said. "They're still violating it." Brody said he has repeatedly attempted to negotiate a settlement with Village Voice Media, but has gotten nowhere. He said he and his business partners have not decided whether they plan to file a countersuit against the chain.

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