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Local News

Court Backs Editor in Dispute Over Ownership of Santa Barbara Independent

A years-long battle over ownership of the Santa Barbara Independent appears close to an end.

The state Second District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the weekly newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Marianne Partridge, affirming a Santa Barbara Superior Court judgment in her contract dispute with publisher Randy Campbell.

Campbell has to sell his shares — 51 percent of the ownership — to Partridge, but the purchase price will be determined in a separate trial, according to the court opinion released Thursday.

In its ruling, the appellate court said the interpretation of the option contract put forth by Campbell “would lead to unintended, absurd results.”

Partridge sued Campbell for breach of contract, among other things, and Campbell filed a cross-complaint — both of which were decided in Partridge’s favor by Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille after a bench trial in 2011.

The dispute came after Campbell gave notice that he planned to sell his shares, the majority of the ownership, to Southland Publishing in 2009 for $2.7 million.

Of that, $1,377,000 was to go to Campbell, with Partridge and two other partners — Richard Parker and Richard Grand-Jean — each receiving $441,000.

The final amount paid was to be subject to a “true up” process that would account for net payables, receivables and cash at the time of closing.

The appellate court judges found that the option contract gave the non-selling shareholders 20 days to decide whether to purchase the selling shareholder (Campbell’s) shares, and the seller could sell them to a third party if they didn’t commit to that purchase within the 20-day period.

De Bellefeuille found that Partridge had accepted the offer to sell before Campbell withdrew it, and ruled that he had to sell his shares to her.

The trial ordered by the appeals court will be to set the sales price under the “true up” process.

Neither Partridge nor Campbell could be reached for comment Thursday night about the decision.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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