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Brugmann's Brain Vomit 

Cleaning up the latest drivel from San Francisco's leading bull-goose loony

Wednesday, Sep 7 2005

Page 3 of 5

Furthermore, Brugmann and the Bay Guardian did not win any awards in the last press club competition, either. That awards dinner was in 2003, a year when no one from our organization held office in the club. The East Bay Express took home 10 awards that year.

Earth to Brugmann: If you want to win journalism awards, pay a living wage to real reporters and stop relying so heavily upon interns, freelancers, and the politically obsessed.

Brugmann, who quaintly refers to himself as B3, is just as manic in his dealings with journalists outside the Bay Area. He wrote the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and copied them his paper's story on the merger. B3PO (Bruce B. Brugmann Pissed Off) sent the AAN leadership a droning, robotic cover note labeled "Bombs Away."

So what exactly are we to make of this merger memo, or, more to the point, what did B3PO make of it?

While Brugmann charged that this merger was proof New Times was taking over the world, he was concerned primarily with the ownership of this new company. B3PO obsessed that investment bankers will drive this new company. He claims the merged newspapers would be "controlled to a significant extent by venture capitalists."

At the top of its story, the Bay Guardian describes my partner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Larkin, and myself as the " . . . Phoenix-based New Times and its primary venture capital firm, the Boston-based Alta Communications."

Contrary to what Brugmann is trying to imply, Alta is not our "primary" venture capital firm; they are our only venture capital firm. Not content with misleading readers, Brugmann goes on to suggest whenever possible that the merger is driven by New Times "and its banker."

Get it? Banker. New Times and its banker. Brugmann is as horrified of bankers as any of William Jennings Bryan's sodbusters.

For the record, Alta's investment in New Times is 14 percent. It would hold even less if a merged company came to pass.

In fact, even if Brugmann was right -- and I can't comment on that, but you know what they say about broken clocks -- Brugmann himself is forced to admit that the documents point out that a merger between New Times Inc. and Village Voice Media would be owned to the tune of 62 percent by myself, Jim Larkin, and our fellow partners at New Times, all of whom are full-time employees in the alternative newspaper industry. Many of the readers of the AAN newsletter have worked with our shareholders, people like Scott Spear.

This "investment banker" terror is typical B3PO hypocrisy. For years Brugmann has hidden the identities of his multimillionaire investors, his investors' interests and holdings, and the relationship between his investors' holdings in San Francisco and the Bay Guardian's coverage of those interests. But now Brugmann wants to raise conspiracy alarms about the very public ownership of both New Times Inc. and Village Voice Media.

Who are your investors, Bruce Brugmann, what are their holdings in the Bay Area, and how has that influenced your coverage in the Bay Guardian? What percentage of the Bay Guardian do your well-heeled investors control?

The question, quite simply, is whether or not Bruce Brugmann is for sale.

It's fun to ask Brugmann-like questions. But let's look at one of the answers, because it's of passing interest.

According to United States postal records, Brugmann's investors own at least 10 percent of his media empire, and probably more.

The Postal Service suspended the Bay Guardian's periodical postage discount in 2003 after Brugmann stopped filing the required paperwork, paperwork which lists the names of all investors holding at least 1 percent interest in the company.

While I don't actually lie awake at night worrying about what investors Brugmann protects, my questions about his paper's financiers are only partly rhetorical.

For example, one of his investors was Donald Werby, described in business publications as a billionaire real estate tycoon in San Francisco. Werby, who passed away in 2002, was a friend and patron of Anton LaVey. Werby underwrote LaVey's efforts at the Church of Satan (no, really). In 1989, Werby was indicted on 21 counts of having sex with underage prostitutes and paying for it with cocaine. One 13-year-old told the grand jury about smoking crack with the 63-year-old Werby.

I missed the Bay Guardian's coverage of its investor's indictment on child prostitution charges.

Of course, any publisher, even Brugmann, misses a story now and then.

But Werby made headlines for years in everyone's newspaper but Brugmann's.

The city's district attorney revealed that Werby and his brother tried to pressure his office into dropping the investigation because Donald Werby and his brother Robert Werbe (they spell their last name differently) were big campaign contributors. More headlines.

Three weeks after his initial arrest, Werby was arrested again, this time for trying to bribe a witness, a pregnant 17-year-old. More headlines.

Facing 15 years in prison on the sex charges alone, Werby pleaded guilty to a mere four misdemeanor counts and paid a fine. He served no jail time. More headlines.

The light sentence became the first major issue in the California attorney general's race in 1990 when the San Francisco prosecutor, Arlo Smith, was challenged for the state office by former Congressman Dan Lungren.

Lungren accused Smith of going into the tank and giving Werby a sweetheart plea agreement because the billionaire investor was a major contributor to the prosecutor's election coffers. The accusation was not lost in the election shuffle; in fact, the two candidates ended up in a physical confrontation over Werby. More headlines.

About The Author

Michael Lacey


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