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Torstar Corp. co-owner Bitove makes 'no apologies' amid tension with business partner

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The Toronto Star building is shown in Toronto, Wednesday, June 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Eduardo Lima

TORONTO — One of the co-owners of Torstar Corp. said he is making "no apologies" for the way he runs the newspaper business after his partner filed for a court order to wind up its parent company.

Nordstar Capital Inc. co-owner Jordan Bitove said in a statement that he has worked to make the company resilient, more accountable and more competitive.

"I’ve done this to ensure that the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, can continue to deliver the news, opinion and stories our diverse audiences seek and the investigative journalism our democracy depends upon – while upholding The Star’s incredible legacy and building a brighter, stronger future," he said.

Bitove said he has focused on building a product centred on the trusted journalism that readers demand, while using that demand to build a sustainable business.

"The preferred playbook of some investors is to cut costs to the bone, strip the product bare, and shrink newsrooms to extract short-term benefit for shareholders."

The statement comes after Bitove's business partner Paul Rivett described an erosion of the partners' relationship in a filing to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice earlier this month and called for an asset sale to wind up the company.

In the court filing, Rivett claims Bitove changed his mind about previously agreed upon plans, failed to provide a budget at the Toronto Star, which he oversees as publisher, ignored proper corporate governance and disregarded his responsibilities to Torstar and Nordstar.

Rivett did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, and the claims have not yet been tested in court.

Rivett has asked the court to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers to manage an asset sale to resolve the "impasse" between the two parties and says dissolving Nordstar is the only way to create a clear path forward for the companies under its umbrella, which also include Metroland Media Group and NorthStar Gaming Inc.

"Given the operational state of the companies, the applicants, employees of the controlled companies, and Torstar’s news readers all stand to suffer irreparable harm if interim relief is not granted," the filing said.

It also said Bitove resigned from Nordstar's board of directors on Aug. 13.

Unifor, which represents more than 10,000 media workers, said in a statement Friday that it was "disheartened" by the court application.

"(The) unexpected news was completely disrespectful to the hard-working Toronto Star staff who felt blindsided by this information – or rather, lack-of," said Unifor national president Lana Payne.

"Journalists and media workers often put their lives on the line to provide fact-based reporting to the public and they deserve better."

Unifor Local 87-M represents many Toronto Star employees.

Nordstar acquired Torstar in 2020, taking the company private, including the Toronto Star and various local news outlets it operates in other cities.

Prior to the deal closing, Nordstar upped its bid for Torstar from $52 million to $60 million in response to a rival offer for the media conglomerate.

The purchase was financed by a loan from investment firm Canso Investment Counsel Ltd.

Rivett was previously president at Fairfax Financial before joining up with Bitove, who was part of the ownership consortium that built the SkyDome, now the Rogers Centre.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2022.

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Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with subsidiaries of the Globe and Mail and Montreal's La Presse.

The Canadian Press