Paul Rivett and Jordan Bitove aim to complete the difficult task of splitting up the assets of NordStar Capital Inc., which includes the Toronto Star, before the end of the year, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The pair are equal partners in NordStar, but a deep rift developed between them earlier this year and they can no longer work together, according to court documents. At a brief court hearing on Oct. 3, lawyers for Mr. Rivett and Mr. Bitove said they would attempt mediation and arbitration in private to divvy up NordStar’s assets between themselves, rather than fight publicly in court after Mr. Rivett requested a wind-up of the company.
Two mediation sessions are scheduled for later this week, according to the sources. Mediation attempts to resolve disputes consensually with the assistance of a third-party. But if that process fails, Mr. Rivett and Mr. Bitove will move into binding arbitration, where an arbitrator will decide the final outcome. J. Douglas Cunningham, a former Ontario Superior Court justice, is serving as mediator and arbitrator.
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly.
Mr. Rivett and Mr. Bitove did not respond to a request for comment.
The fallout between the two men was detailed in a court application filed in September by holding companies controlled by Mr. Rivett, who said he and his business partner clashed over cost-cutting measures at the Toronto Star. Mr. Bitove, who also serves as publisher of the newspaper, reneged on cost cutting-plans that had been agreed to while refusing to provide a budget, according to Mr. Rivett’s court application. Mr. Bitove also allegedly attempted to improperly sideline Mr. Rivett by appointing himself to the boards of various subsidiaries.
With the partners deadlocked, Mr. Rivett asked an Ontario court to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers to oversee an auction process to divide NordStar’s assets.
After news of the court application became public, Mr. Bitove responded with a statement from communications firm Navigator Ltd., saying he would make no apologies for his decisions at the Toronto Star while implying Mr. Rivett preferred to “cut costs to the bone.”
The pair have only been working together at NordStar for two years. They partnered in 2020 to purchase Torstar Corp. for around $60-million. In addition to the Toronto Star, the company owns community news publisher Metroland Media Group, a parcel delivery service, and an online casino and sports betting business. It also holds investments in Blue Ant Media Inc. and VerticalScope Holdings Inc.
As of April, NordStar was the largest shareholder in VerticalScope, with a 37-per-cent stake worth about $59.3-million. Shares in VerticalScope, which operates community websites for enthusiasts of various topics, including car, dogs, and guitars, are down close to 75 per cent in the past year.