The owner of the Las Vegas Sun wants a Nevada judge to decide whether its cross-town rival and joint-operating partner, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owes it millions of dollars under profit-sharing terms of a contract dating to 2005.
The Sun contends in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Clark County District Court that the larger Review-Journal and its owner, Stephens Media, improperly deducted editorial costs from profit figures before paying a monthly one-12th profit share to Greenspun Media Group.
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The Sun argues the resulting shortage has added up over the past 10 years to at least $6 million.
Sun owner Brian Greenspun, Sun attorney Leif Reid and Stephens Media general counsel Mark Hinueber each characterized the lawsuit Wednesday as a dispute that could be resolved.
Greenspun and Reid said the two sides began talking about the issue last summer, but negotiations stalled.
All said neither the lawsuit nor the joint operating agreement had anything to do with a recent announcement that the Review-Journal is being bought by New York-based New Media Investment Group Inc.
"We are disappointed that Mr. Greenspun chose to file a lawsuit about this accounting dispute," Hinueber said by email. "We will move to compel arbitration as the Sun agreed to in the 2005 amendment to the joint operating agreement."
Reid said he didn't believe arbitration was necessary.
The rival newspapers have separate editorial staffs but combine advertising, publishing and distribution. They are responsible for their own news operations. The Sun appears as a daily section inserted in the Review-Journal.
The Sun lawsuit says the revenue it gets from Stephens and the Review-Journal is its sole source of revenue
Greenspun said the lawsuit wasn't as emotionally charged as a federal lawsuit filed in August 2013 to stop what he alleged was a Review-Journal effort to buy out his share in the Sun and kill the joint operating agreement.
The agreement was first signed in 1989 and runs through Dec. 31, 2040. It is overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.
The federal case led to passionate arguments before U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas, who lamented from the bench that he believed he was witnessing the demise of the Sun.
Action on the buyout later stalled, and the lawsuit was dismissed last September.