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PiPress/Strib donnybrook, Day 2

Posted at 2:51 PM on June 26, 2007 by Bill Wareham

This story is such a natural for this space, and I missed Day 1. My apologies. Here's the latest on Day 2 of the court hearing:

ST. PAUL (AP) - The former publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer
Press testified Tuesday that he didn't intend any harm to the paper
when he took confidential files to his new job as publisher of the
rival Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Par Ridder acknowledged taking 18 to 20 spreadsheets containing
sensitive data on advertising, finances and personnel when he was
hired in March. But he said he intended to use them only to
re-create the forms with Star Tribune data.

"I didn't plan on using the Pioneer Press financials," Ridder
testified, because it would have given him and the Star Tribune an
"unfair advantage" in the competitive Twin Cities newspaper
market.

Ridder said he shared the spreadsheets with at least two other
Star Tribune officials only so they could adapt them with the
newspaper's own information.

Ridder's testimony came on the second day of a three-day hearing
on the Pioneer Press's request to block him and two other former
Pioneer Press executives from working at the Star Tribune for at
least a year. A key issue is whether their noncompete agreements
are enforceable under Minnesota law.

Ridder said he developed the spreadsheets at newspapers where he
had worked as a publisher before, including in San Luis Obispo,
Calif. He said they were so useful in analyzing financial data that
he grew frustrated at how long it was taking Star Tribune staff to
recreate them and load them with the paper's data.

"I rely on these forms so much, for the first couple of weeks I
felt I was missing something because I didn't have access to this
information," Ridder testified.

During a break in testimony, Star Tribune Chairman Chris Harte
was asked by reporters whether the allegations would hurt the
38-year-old Ridder's career.

"I don't believe so," Harte said. "I'll talk about that after
the case is over."

In videotaped testimony Monday, Ridder said he and the other
Pioneer Press employees had been verbally released from their
noncompete agreements by Art Brisbane, then a senior vice president
at Knight Ridder, when Knight Ridder was preparing to sell the
paper.

Brisbane testified that he couldn't recall such a discussion.