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2 officials who made slurs quit Metro posts

Herald moves to bar deal by Times Co., cites antitrust issues

Two Metro newspaper officials who made racial slurs at company meetings in 2003 resigned yesterday as the international publishing company tried to extinguish a controversy in advance of closing a $16.5 million deal with The New York Times Co.

Metro, which is selling a 49 percent share of its Boston publication to Times Co., parent of The Boston Globe, also said it would hire an outside consultant to review its corporate attitudes and practices, and quickly implement the recommendations. In addition, the London-based company said it would establish citizen boards in the communities in which it operates to advise its executives on issues of diversity.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald, which has splashed the racial remarks story on its front page, has filed a complaint with the Justice Department seeking to block Times Co.'s acquisition of Metro Boston on antitrust grounds, said George Regan, a spokesman for the Herald.

"If the New York Times Co. is allowed to buy a share of Metro, that would severely harm the Boston Herald, its advertisers and most importantly its readers, and the community at large," said Regan, who did not provide a copy of the filing.

Boston Herald editorial director Ken Chandler said he "no longer had a copy" of the complaint and referred calls to the paper's lawyer, Daniel C. Gusenoff of Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels in Boston. Reached last night, Gusenoff said he was not able to provide a copy of the filing or many details but said the complaint cites the federal Clayton Act. The act prohibits an acquisition that may "tend to create a monopoly."

Earlier this week, the Herald in an editorial vowed to use all its "resources" to keep Boston a competitive newspaper market.

A Times Co. spokeswoman last night declined to comment on the complaint because the company had not seen it. A Globe spokesman declined to comment for the same reason.

Last week, after Herald publisher Patrick J. Purcell said he would try to block the Metro sale on anticompetitive grounds, Globe publisher Richard Gilman said in a statement, "The Metro is a single free newspaper in the Boston media market, which has 18 paid daily newspapers. In addition, there are a considerable number of free weekly newspapers, including the many owned by Herald Media Co. This may well be the most competitive newspaper market in the country."

Steve R. Nylund, who made a joke racially disparaging to African-Americans at a corporate function in Italy in 2003, resigned as president of Metro's North American subsidiary, Metro USA. Metro said he would remain with Metro International as executive vice president, but without operational responsibilities.

Hans Holger-Albrecht, a director who used a racial slur at another corporate gathering in 2003, resigned from the Metro International board.

Nylund declined to comment last night. Albrecht, who lives in Europe, could not be reached.

In a statement this week, Gilman said, "The incidents that have been reported are reprehensible." He added that the Globe is "committed to fair treatment of all employees based on respect, accountability, and standards of excellence."

Metro said yesterday it was determined to create "a workplace that is hospitable, respectful and supportive of all employees regardless of race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, political belief, marital status or sexual orientation."

Pelle Tornberg, president and chief executive of Metro International, said, "We publish in 16 languages in 63 major cities in 17 countries. We strive to be the most diverse newspaper company in the world."

Times Co. said in a statement, "The Times Co. is committed to fair treatment of all employees based on respect, accountability, and standards of excellence. As part of our continuing due diligence on the investment in Metro Boston, we are closely reviewing the steps that Metro International is taking to address recent reports of inappropriate comments by some of its staff and the process it pursues to ensure that it adheres to the highest standards of corporate behavior."

Times Co. said on Jan. 3 that it would acquire a minority share of Metro, a tabloid distributed free to Boston commuters, with the Globe acting as sales agent for classified advertising and providing nonexclusive content to the paper. The deal, however, was clouded this week when the Internet site reported the racial slurs by the Metro officials.

Nylund apologized for the racially disparaging remarks, saying he made them inadvertently while translating a joke into English. Metro International also acknowledged that Albrecht had "awkwardly and inappropriately" used a racial slur, and apologized.

The apologies, however, failed to satisfy some prominent African-Americans in Boston, who called on Times Co. to change the culture of Metro.

Last night, state Representative Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat, said the resignations and other actions by Metro appeared a "nice first step" but are not enough. He said Times Co., if it intends to complete the purchase, needs to assure the community by detailing what it will do to ensure that racism is not tolerated at Metro.

The comments by the Metro executives have "to be the tip of the iceberg," Rushing said. "Nobody who was at any of those meetings said a word until the controversy about ownership. The New York Times [Co.] knows how to talk to Americans, and they should tell us definitively what they're going to be doing."

Robert Gavin can be reached at Globe staff reporter Andrew Caffrey contributed to this report. 

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