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Manager of Daytona Beach News-Journal fires 5 of paper's board members

DAYTONA BEACH — The court-appointed manager of the Daytona Beach News-Journal has fired five of six members of the company's board of directors, including members of the family that has owned and operated the newspaper for more than 80 years.

The firings are the latest twist in a four-year legal battle in which the Davidson family, challenged by the company's minority shareholder for spending $13million in company money on an arts center, has lost control of the newspaper. According to court documents, the family might not see any payout from its impending sale.

The board members fired are Publisher and CEO Georgia Kaney; Marc Davidson, board chairman and co-editor; Julia Davidson Truilo, director of online development; her husband Bob Truilo, general manager; and Chief Financial Officer David Kendall. Marc Davidson and Jonathan Kaney, husband of Georgia Kaney and longtime general counsel for the newspaper as well as a board member, would not comment. The Truilos could not be reached.

Jim Hopson, a retired publisher appointed by a federal judge to run the paper, announced the firings Wednesday to employees through an e-mail message, which said he will proceed with brokering the sale of the paper.

"We still have an interested buyer, and I expect the sale of the business to be consummated as we resolve the remaining issues between buyer and seller," his memo said.

Hopson would not comment Wednesday. According to court records, the current market value of the paper is $26 million to $30 million.

That value is about twice the amount that sparked the original lawsuit. Cox Enterprises of Atlanta, which has held 47.5 percent of company shares for more than 30 years, sued the News-Journal in 2004 after learning through a journalism trade publication that $13 million of company funds had been spent on naming rights for a new performing-arts center championed by Tippen Davidson, who headed the newspaper until his death in 2007.

A federal judge ruled that for the News-Journal to sever its ties with Cox, the paper must buy out the minority shareholder for $129 million. However, the company didn't pay that amount, choosing to work with Cox on a potential sale of the paper. That sale agreement ended earlier this month when the judge appointed Hopson as manager.

Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at llelis@orlandosentinel.com or 386-253-0964.

Related topic galleries: Court Administration, Justice System, Newspaper and Magazine, Judges, Shareholders

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