United accused of lawsuit 'sham'

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UNITED Newspapers sued itself as a ruse to get out of an unprofitable pounds 200m contract to distribute magazines, according to Northern & Shell and other publishers. They plan to issue proceedings against United this week, writes Patrick Hosking.

Northern, whose publications include Penthouse and Performance Cyclist, calls the lawsuit 'a device and a sham' to enable it to end the four-year contract.

Last week United Newspapers Publications applied for judgment in the sum of pounds 257,000 against United Magazine Distribution. Both are United companies. Both used the same solicitors. UMD did not contest the action.

The contract with Northern and other magazine publishers to distribute 64 titles was signed last July and would be automatically terminated on the award of any court judgment against UMD.

David Stirling, a spokesman for United, said it would challenge any proceedings. The deal with Northern was 'not a happy contract. It was becoming increasingly difficult to operate it.'

He denied the internal lawsuit was a sham. 'But it was a legal device,' he added. 'We were advised this was the best way of legally ending the contract.'

The other publishers are Power Radio, Portland Publishing and Green Magazine Co.