New Brunswick

Former publisher says Irving stifling his attempt to start a newspaper

A former newspaper publisher in western New Brunswick says J.D. Irving subsidiary Brunswick News Inc. is trying to prevent him from starting a competing newspaper in Woodstock.

A former newspaper executive with Brunswick News Inc. in western New Brunswick saysthe companyis trying to prevent him from starting a competingtitle in Woodstock.

In court documents obtained by CBC News, Brunswick News alleges William Kenneth Langdon is using confidential information he obtained as one of their publishers to establish his own newspaper in direct competition with the Woodstock Bugle-Observer.

Langdon resigned on Sept. 19 after working as publisher of the Bugle-Observer for four years. He worked for Brunswick News, which is owned by J.D. Irving Ltd., for 10 years.

Brunswick News initially sought an injunction to stop Langdon from starting a new publication in Woodstock but last week withdrew that request in a Saint John court.

Now Brunswick News is asking the court to issue an order preventing Langdon from approaching Bugle customers, advertisers and employees on behalf of his new paper.

Langdon's office, home and vehicle were searched on Sept. 27 by court order. Several Bugle-related documents including cash flow breakdowns, advertising rate analysis, income statements,flyer routesand a resumé were seized.

In an affidavit, Langdon states the seized documents were material he brought home in the evenings for further review while working as publisher at the Bugle-Observer and have no value to starting a new newspaper.

All of the English-language daily newspapers in New Brunswick are owned by Irving and its other entities, as are all of the weekly publications with the exception of the Sackville Tribune and the St. Croix Courier.

According to Brunswick News' statement of claim, Langdon signed an employment agreement that prevents him from disclosing any trade secrets or information relating to the company.

Examples of confidential information put forth by the company include status of projects, sales, profits and costs, business plans, salaries and customer and supplier lists.

As a key employee in a senior management position, Langdon was entrusted to not use confidential or proprietary information for his benefit, the statement of claim says.

Langdon began to explore starting another newspaper in Woodstock around Aug. 23, according to his affidavit.

The court documents include Langdon's letter of resignation, where he states he was harassed and verbally abused for six months by Victor Mlodecki, vice-president of Brunswick News Inc.

In the letter, Langdon refers to himself as a "dedicated Irving employee" who grew uncomfortable with the company's management practices, especially orders to drive Irving's competitors out of business.

According to the court documents, Brunswick News is targeting flyer distributors Gary Windsor in Bathurst, N.B.,and Lavaseure Distributors in Edmundston.

"In addition to my personal objections, I am also not comfortable from a professional perspective with the manner in which we are being directed by Mr. Mlodecki to carry out business, particularly as it pertains to our competitors," Langdon's letter stated.

"I do not feel it is appropriate for comments by the vice-president of Irving-owned newspapers to make comments to the team of publishers about plans to drive competitors out of business."

Mlodecki went as far as to say that he would be prepared to spend up to $1 million to put Gary Windsor out of business, Langdon's paperwork states.

The documents also indicate Langdon believes Brunswick News is prepared toset its flyer rates below cost in an attempt to capture the market in the province.

The case is scheduled to continue in Saint John provincial court on Friday, Oct. 19.