TORONTO — After having “productive conversations” about it, Paul Rivett and Jordan Bitove, both business partners at Torstar Corp., have agreed to move their legal dispute to mediation and arbitration.
Rivett asked the Ontario Superior Court last month for a court order to close down the media company, saying that his relationship with Bitove had been “irreparably” hurt. On Monday, there was a short hearing to decide whether or not the court should grant that order.
Rivett and Bitove are both equal partners in Nordstar Capital Inc., an investment company that bought Torstar in 2020 for $60 million and now owns all of its assets, including the Toronto Star newspaper.
Lawyers for Rivett told the court on Monday that the problem is caused by “two different visions” of how to run a business at a time when the newspaper industry around the world is facing problems. They called it a “corporate divorce” between two former friends and business partners.
They said that the two sides will have to figure out who will run the business, but there is no need to talk about it in public.
The lawyers for Bitove said the same things.
During the hearing, no date was set for the start of the mediation-arbitration process, which will be kept secret.
Rivett’s request for the court to step in will now be put on hold while the process goes on.
Rivett says in the court application he filed on September 1 that Bitove changed his mind about plans that had already been agreed upon, didn’t give a budget for the Toronto Star, which he is in charge of as publisher, and didn’t follow proper corporate governance, and didn’t do what he was supposed to do for Torstar and Nordstar.
In the filing, he also asked the court to put PricewaterhouseCoopers in charge of an asset sale to break the “impasse” between the two parties. He said that dissolving Nordstar would be the only way to give Metroland Media Group and NorthStar Gaming Inc. a clear path to move forward.
“Given the operational state of the companies, the applicants, the employees of the controlled companies, and Torstar’s news readers all stand to suffer irreparable harm if interim relief is not granted,” the filing said.
Bitove said in a statement last week that he is “not sorry” about how he runs the newspaper business and that he has worked to make the company more stable, accountable, and competitive.
“I did this to make sure that the Toronto Star, Canada’s biggest newspaper, can continue to give our diverse audiences the news, opinions, and stories they want, as well as the investigative journalism that our democracy depends on,” he said. He also said that he wanted to honor The Star’s great history and build a better, stronger future.
Bitove said that he has focused on making a product based on the trustworthy journalism that readers want, and he has used that demand to build a business that can last.
In his statement, he said, “Some investors’ preferred playbook is to cut costs to the bone, strip the product bare, and shrink newsrooms to get short-term benefits for shareholders.”
Unifor, which speaks for more than 10,000 people who work in the media, said in a statement last week that the court application “disappointed” them.
“The news came out of the blue and was completely disrespectful to the hardworking staff at the Toronto Star, who felt like they had no idea what was going on,” said Lana Payne, the national president of Unifor.
“Reporters and journalists often put their lives on the line to give the public accurate information, and they deserve better.”
A lot of Toronto Star workers are represented by Unifor Local 87-M.
Rivett was president of Fairfax Financial before he joined forces with Bitove. Bitove was part of the group of owners that built the SkyDome, which is now the Rogers Centre.
This story from The Canadian Press came out for the first time on October 3, 2022
As part of a deal with subsidiaries of the Globe and Mail and Montreal’s La Presse, Torstar has a stake in The Canadian Press.
The Canadian Press (the Canadian Press)
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