Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Lawsuit details revealed


Enquirer paid Chiquita $14 million in settlement, magazine reports

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Enquirer paid $14 million two years ago as part of an out-of-court settlement with Chiquita Brands International Inc.

        The Enquirer's parent company, Gannett Co. Inc., confirmed the settlement amount Tuesday following the Monday publication of details of the settlement agreement in Editor & Publisher magazine.

        The information ended two years of public uncertainty about how much the newspaper paid to resolve its legal dispute with Cincinnati-based Chiquita.

        The settlement agreement was signed six weeks after the Enquirer published a series of articles in May 1998 about Chiquita's business practices.

        As part of the settlement, the newspaper renounced the articles and published front-page apologies to Chiquita.

        In the apologies, Enquirer editors stated that the series' lead reporter, Michael Gallagher, had misled them about how he obtained messages from the voice-mail boxes of Chiquita executives. Mr. Gallagher was fired by the newspaper shortly before the apologies were published.

        The newspaper had previously acknowledged a payout to Chiquita, but until this week the amount had been described as “in excess of $10 million.”

        Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell said the actual total is $14 million.

        “The terms of the settlement show the very high price the Enquirer paid — financially and reputationally,” Gannett officials said Tuesday in a statement.

        Ms. Connell also said the agreement required the front-page apologies and the withdrawal of the articles from the Enquirer's Web site.

        In addition to the precise amount Gannett paid, other details about the settlement agreement were published Monday on Editor & Publisher's Web site. The magazine reported that it had obtained a copy of the agreement. According to the magazine, the agreement also required:

        • Gannett to investigate its employees and tell Chiquita whether any had engaged in illegal conduct.

        • Gannett to give Chiquita “unlimited access” to all recordings or transcripts of the voice-mail messages.

        • The newspaper to seal and bar most access to documents, reporters' notes and other material used in preparing the Chiquita articles.

        • Gannett to bar former Enquirer Editor Lawrence Beaupre and reporter Cameron McWhirter from writing any more articles about Chiquita. Mr. McWhirter, now with the Detroit News, co-wrote the Chiquita articles with Mr. Gallagher.

        The magazine stated the agreement was on file in a Washington, D.C., court as part of a lawsuit that Mr. Beaupre has filed against Gannett. Mr. Beaupre accuses Gannett of making him a “scapegoat” and ruining his reputation — allegations that Gannett denies.

        The lawyers for Gannett and for Mr. Beaupre could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

        But in Gannett's statement Tuesday, the company claimed the settlement with Chiquita was necessary because of “illegal newsgathering that occurred on Mr. Beaupre's watch.”

        “Many editors would have offered to resign under those circumstances,” the statement read. “Instead, Mr. Beaupre filed a lawsuit which assumes he was entitled to remain as editor of the Enquirer indefinitely.”

        Mr. Beaupre, who is working as a consultant, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

       



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