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Trial in Suit to Block Sale of S.F. Paper Likely to Start May 1

April 04, 2000|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Hearst Corp., blocked by a federal judge last week from completing its purchase of the San Francisco Chronicle, said Monday it would go to trial May 1 to fight an antitrust suit opposing the sale.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued a temporary restraining order Friday against the $660-million sale and said he was concerned that it would lead to the collapse of Hearst's 120-year-old Examiner and the end of daily newspaper competition in San Francisco.

The restraining order was to run through April 13, when a hearing was scheduled on a preliminary injunction sought by Clint Reilly, a former candidate for mayor and an unsuccessful bidder for the Examiner. An injunction would stay in effect until Reilly's suit went to trial.

But Hearst lawyer Gary Halling said the company decided to bypass the injunction stage and go directly to a nonjury trial before Walker, starting May 1. Halling said a trial could be completed in two or three days. Reilly's lawyer, Joseph M. Alioto, estimated one to two weeks.

"We wanted to get to the merits and get this resolved as quickly as possible," Halling said. "The deal will not wait around indefinitely."

Hearst and Chronicle Publishing Co. have both said in court papers that the sale could be terminated if it is not completed by May 2. But the agreement allows delays for court proceedings, Halling said.

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