Judge blocks ex-Pioneer Press executive from starting Star Tribune

(AP)- A former St. Paul Pioneer Press executive was blocked from starting her new job at the rival Star Tribune of Minneapolis when a judge ruled Friday that the move would violate a noncompete agreement.

Ramsey County Judge David C. Higgs granted a Pioneer Press request for a temporary restraining order to keep Jennifer Parratt from becoming director of niche publications at the Star Tribune.

The order stems from a lawsuit filed by the Pioneer Press over former publisher Par Ridder, who defected to become the Star Tribune's publisher and CEO last month. The Pioneer Press lawsuit alleges that Ridder broke a noncompete agreement and that he handed over sensitive data about finances, advertising, and circulation.

The Pioneer Press alleges that the information ended up on computers belonging to the Star Tribune and some of its executives. The judge ordered the Star Tribune to hand over servers and other computers, including Ridder's home PC and another computer where some Ridder e-mails were sent, so an expert hired by the Pioneer Press can check the source of the data.

Higgs also ordered the Star Tribune to turn over paper documents belonging to the Pioneer Press within two days. The Pioneer Press has alleged that Ridder took a folder containing noncompete agreements signed by him and other executives.

The Star Tribune issued a statement saying it would comply with the order. "We're anxious to get a full hearing on the merits and look forward to presenting our case as soon as possible," it said.

The restraining order granted Friday required the judge to decide which side was more likely to be right about Parratt's noncompete agreement. The Star Tribune will get a chance to argue against it at a hearing scheduled for June 18.

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