Feb. 12, 2004 – Street vendors of print newspapers have been told to stop selling the Avis if they want to continue selling the V.I. Daily News, according to a front-page story in the Thursday issue of the Avis.
The Avis article charges that several newspaper vendors have reported being harassed by Al Loiten, Daily News circulation manager. The vendors told an Avis reporter that Loiten had threatened to cut off their supplies of the Daily News if they continued to sell the Avis as well. The vendors did not want to be identified by name for fear of retribution, the report said.
The story states that Rena Brodhurst, Avis publisher and editor, received telephone calls from her distributors and vendors complaining that they were being harassed by the Daily News.
Brodhurst declined comment on Thursday. Through Will Jones, Avis managing editor, she said that she would withhold comment at this time, as the matter is unresolved.
Avis attorney Vince Colianni II wrote to J. Lowe Davis, Daily News executive editor and chief executive officer, on Tuesday demanding that the paper "cease and desist" from threatening vendors who sell the Avis and threatening legal action if "the Daily News continues to threaten and intimidate vendors."
Colianni said the actions directed against the vendors "clearly violate federal antitrust laws [and] territorial unfair competition laws, and constitute tortious interference with the Avis' contractual relations."
Asked for comment Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Iver Stridiron said he had not received a copy of Colianni's letter. But he stated that "tortious interference" is a serious matter, depending on the value of a contract between entities and whether the charge can be proven.
Stridiron declined to say whether the matter violated antitrust laws without looking into the specifics of the case. "I haven't a clue," he said, adding that the matter might not require government involvement.
Stridiron said he would comment further after receiving a copy of the letter, which the Source faxed him on Thursday afternoon. He did not return later calls.
Calls seeking comment from Davis and Loiten were not returned. The Source sought without success to obtain a copy of the contract the paper has with its vendors.
The Source received a direct complaint from the owner of a business that sells newspapers on its premises; however, the individual asked not to be identified by name.
Brodhurst wrote a letter to Davis that also was quoted in the Avis report. It referred to "ruthless, shameless tactics being used against the vendors" and accused Davis of "business ethics that have sunk to a new low."
Brodhurst, who took over the Avis following the death of her father, longtime publisher Canute Brodhurst, recalled a time when goodwill and friendly competition existed between the two print newspapers. "When the Daily News founder Ariel Melchior wanted to send his paper to St. Croix, he contacted his friend, Avis publisher Canute Brodhurst, and asked for his help," his daughter wrote. "Brodhurst allowed Melchior's paper to be distributed by Avis staff all over St. Croix."
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