Texas Monthly owner: We aren’t suing Jake Silverstein

Jake Silverstein. (Mayborn School of Journalism)
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AUSTIN, TEX.—Texas Monthly parent company Emmis Publishing tells Capital that they're not suing outgoing editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein over his decision to accept a job with The New York Times as the editor of its Sunday magazine.

A late Friday afternoon report in The New York Times said Silverstein would be named in the suit; Emmis' complaint does not in fact name the editor.

The suit, which seeks damages between $200,000 and $1 million, names only the Times. In the suit, the Indianapolis-based parent company claims the New York newspaper has not made good on an agreement to negotiate the termination of Silverstein's three-year Texas Monthly contract, which expires in February 2015.

In an interview with Capital late Friday afternoon, Emmis Publishing president Greg Loewen said the company never intended to stand in the way of Silverstein's pursuit of the Times Magazine editorship, which came open late last year.

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Loewen said that after Silverstein told his employer last month that he was being considered for the job, Emmis notified the Times that they would have to reach a settlement on the termination of his contract with Emmis to account for the costs associated with finding Silverstein's replacement, as well as the damage of losing a star editor.

Silverstein's appointment was announced on March 28 before any such discussions took place, according to Loewen, who said Emmis informed the Times that same day that the company felt it had a legal case that it hoped could be settled quickly and amicably.

Loewen said Emmis made the decision this Thursday to pursue litigation after receiving a communication from the Times. Loewen declined to share that communication with Capital, but he characterized it as: "We don't think we owe you any compensation for this."

Loewen referred to it as "the hubris of a large organization trying to take advantage of a smaller news organization. ... We think we have the right to expect some reasonable compensation. We're flabbergasted that the Times has taken this aggressive stance."

Capital ran Emmis Publishing's side of the story by a Times spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, who said the Times still had not seen the suit. She declined to comment beyond a statement issued late in the afternoon.

"We are disappointed that Emmis Publishing, L.P., the publisher of Texas Monthly, has apparently made the decision to sue Jake Silverstein, the Monthly's editor, for accepting the position as editor of The New York Times Magazine," the statement said.

"We had an understanding with Emmis during the search that Jake would be permitted to exit his contract with Emmis and take the job. Inexplicably, Emmis has instead decided to initiate litigation. We believe there is no basis for a lawsuit. We look forward to having Mr. Silverstein join the Times next month and help us shape the future of the magazine."

The suit casts a pall over a high-profile appointment that was met with applause from various corners of America's media establishment when it was announced.

Silverstein, the editor of Texas Monthly since 2008, has been in New York the past two days in meetings at the Times. He declined to comment Friday afternoon.

Ian Arnold, an attorney for Emmis, told Capital the suit was filed at 5:18 p.m. central time in Travis County, Tex.

"The one thing that's sad about this is that everyone was made aware from the beginning that we considered this an issue to be resolved between Texas Monthly and The New York Times," said Arnold, "and we never intended, nor did we communicate to anybody that we were going to sue Jake for breach of his contract."

Emmis Publishing's complaint alleges that Times executive editor "Jill Abramson and other employees ... for several months attempted to, and ultimately did in fact, persuade and induce Silverstein to breach the Employment Agreement. As a direct and proximate consequence of Defendant’s willful and intentional actions, Texas Monthly has suffered and will continue to suffer significant economic harm."

In addition to Texas Monthly, Emmis Publishing owns and operates regional magazines based in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Texas Monthly is seen as the crown jewel of the stable and Silverstein's editorship is considered a widely successful one.

Silverstein is set to start his new job at the Times in May. Capital first reported on March 13 that he was in the running for the job.

Click here to download a PDF of the Emmis filing against The New York Times.