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Gannett Issues Statement Regarding Beaupre Lawsuit

ARLINGTON, Va. — Gannett executives today refuted and denied allegations by the former senior news executive at The Cincinnati Enquirer regarding the handling of a series of 1998 investigative news articles about Chiquita Brands International, Inc.

Larry Beaupre, formerly editor and vice president at The Enquirer and now a news executive in the Newspaper Division who is on administrative leave, has filed a lawsuit alleging he was mistreated by Gannett and its attorneys during and after the threatened litigation by Chiquita and the private settlement between the two companies.

The settlement was reached after it was determined that a former Enquirer reporter had used illegal methods to obtain voice mail conversations involving Chiquita executives.

In a statement released by Gannett, the company said:

“Mr. Beaupre’s complaint is full of inaccuracies. Rather than accepting responsibility for the news articles that he edited and for which he later personally apologized, Mr. Beaupre’s lawsuit attempts to shift to The Enquirer, and its parent company, Gannett, the responsibility for any damage to his career and reputation.

“Mr. Beaupre claims he was made the ‘official executive scapegoat’ for the Chiquita series. The complaint further attempts to place the responsibility for the series of articles on those individuals above and below Mr. Beaupre.

“The facts are that Mr. Beaupre, in his role as the top editor at The Enquirer, was personally and directly involved in the preparation and editing of the articles. That is undeniable.

“The claim also incorrectly suggests that Mr. Beaupre was mistreated by Gannett after the publication of the Chiquita articles and the ensuing apology voluntarily issued by The Enquirer and Mr. Beaupre personally. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“The facts are that Gannett went to extraordinary lengths to safeguard Mr. Beaupre’s professional reputation and his continued employment with the company by offering him an interim high-level position in the Newspaper Division, which he accepted.

“The company further suggested to Mr. Beaupre the possibility of becoming the senior news executive at one of Gannett’s most successful newspapers. Mr. Beaupre declined this opportunity.

“Even after the possible role at another Gannett newspaper was rejected by Mr. Beaupre, he was offered a permanent position in the News Department of the Newspaper Division.

“Mr. Beaupre rejected this offer, he said, because it did not include certain financial components and other perquisites.

“The lawsuit also incorrectly contends that Gannett and its attorneys breached their ethical obligation to Mr. Beaupre by not advising him of his right to have his own legal counsel during the negotiations that resulted in the settlement between Gannett and Chiquita.

“Once again, the facts are diametrically opposed to Mr. Beaupre’s claim. In fact, Mr. Beaupre was advised on numerous occasions of his right to a personal attorney. At each opportunity, he declined and continued to work with the company’s attorneys. Moreover, Mr. Beaupre was the primary author of the apology to Chiquita that appeared in The Enquirer on three occasions in June and July 1998.

“Gannett intends to vigorously defend itself against Mr. Beaupre’s meritless complaint.”

Gannett Co., Inc. is an international news and information company that publishes 74 daily newspapers in the USA, including USA TODAY, the nation’s largest-selling daily newspaper. The company also owns a variety of non-daily publications and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Newsquest plc, a wholly owned Gannett subsidiary acquired in mid-1999, is one of the largest regional newspaper publishers in England with a portfolio of more than 180 titles. Its publications include 11 daily newspapers with a combined circulation of approximately 450,000. Newsquest also publishes a variety of non-daily publications, including Berrow’s Worcester Journal, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the world. Gannett also operates 22 television stations.