Trib wants open proceedings in Scaife estate dispute
The Tribune-Review will ask a judge to keep proceedings open in a dispute involving the estate of the late Trib owner Dick Scaife and his adult children, CEO Ralph J. Martin said Tuesday.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Philadelphia Inquirer announced plans in news articles to intervene in the family matter pending before Allegheny County Judge Kathleen Durkin. The newspapers said they will file legal petitions this week.
“The Post-Gazette is on a misguided mission to attempt to determine the full extent of the financial legacy of Mr. Scaife’s support of the Trib Total Media newspapers,” Martin said.
“Apparently, this approach by the Post-Gazette to enter this personal litigation is an effort to take the focus off its own financial losses, which we believe now exceed those of Trib Total Media. The Trib was recently named ‘the Best Daily Newspaper’ in Pennsylvania by the state’s leading media organization, and it has surpassed the Post-Gazette in daily and Sunday circulation.
“Nevertheless, the Trib is joining the Post-Gazette’s petition to promote open court proceedings, because that is consistent with our mission in favor of open government.”
Scaife, 82, a philanthropist and conservative activist, died July 4 of cancer.
Neither trustees of Scaife’s estate nor his children have requested to close the proceedings.
Post-Gazette attorney Frederick Frank declined to comment.
Bill Marimow, editor of the Inquirer, said he was asked to participate in the case but declined to say if the Post-Gazette contacted him. He said he was unaware if anyone had asked to close the proceedings.
“I feel very strongly that the courts in the United States should be kept open and accessible to all citizens,” Marimow said.
Scaife’s children — David N. Scaife, 48, of Shadyside and Jennie Scaife, 51, of Palm Beach, Fla. — filed a petition last week seeking an accounting of money distributed from a trust established in 1935 by Dick Scaife’s mother, Sarah Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon Bank fortune.
The Scaife children want accounting of the trust from January 1998 until their father’s death. They contend their father used the trust “as his own personal bank account” to subsidize more than $140 million in losses incurred by the Tribune-Review, despite his access to more than $1 billion in other accounts.
They claim that Scaife’s lawyers, H. Yale Gutnick and E.J. Strassburger, allowed their father to subsidize the newspaper even though the children were told there would be at least $90 million remaining upon his death. In August, they learned the account had been liquidated, the petition says. PNC Bank is a defendant in the case.
Gutnick has called those allegations “outrageous.”
Scaife made no secret of his intention to fund his newspapers into the future. In a May 18 column published on the front pages of his newspapers, he announced that he had inoperable cancer. He wrote that he “took steps to ensure my newspapers outlive me.”
A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17, during which the estate trustees must show why they should not have to file an accounting with the court.
David Scaife’s attorney Dennis Watson declined to comment. An attorney for Jennie Scaife did not return a call for comment.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer.