Monday, February 15, 2010
Former Enquirer Publisher Bill Keating Feuds With Financial Advisor: Claims $2.5 Million Loss On Gannett Stock
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- So far, this peek into the lives of the rich and famous, about wealth and how it is managed in Cincinnati, hasn't seemed to make many ripples here in the city where it is unfolding. Bill Keating, a former GOP congressman from Ohio who ran Gannett's newspaper operations in Cincinnati and Detroit, contends his $20 million investment portfolio was mismanaged. He wanted his newspaper stocks dumped, and dumped quickly. His lawyers claim Keating and his wife, Nancy, took a $6 million hit on holdings in Gannett (43,558 shares) and Fifth Third Bank (225,000 shares) that Keating ordered aggressively liquidated. Keating says his orders were not followed. Keating says in an affidavit filed with his lawsuit in Hamilton County that his instructions were given before the economy slipped into recession and the share prices sank to historic lows. Both the bank and the newspaper chain have been beaten up on Wall Street -- Fifth Third for lackluster management and Gannett for the erosion of print publishing in the face of online challenges. Keating had been an insider at both corporations. He served on Cincinnati-based Fifth Third's board for much of the 1980s and 1990s. At Gannett -- the nation's largest newspaper publisher -- he ran the Cincinnati Enquirer, was president of the company Central Newspaper Group, was v.p and general counsel of Gannett Co. Inc., and ran the Detroit Newspaper Agency which published the News and Free Press. He was chairman of the Associated Press from 1987-1992. His brother, Charles, was the poster boy of the S&L scandal in the early 1990s.
In his Jan. 6, 2010 affidavit, Keating said: "Both before and after investment accounts were opened with SWRW LLC, I and members of my family made clear on numerous instances our instructions to William T. Sena Sr. and William T. Sena Jr., to immediately liquidate the Fifth Third and Gannett holdings and reinvest the process so as to create a well diversified investment portfolio."
The Sena's see things differently. They have submitted several memos (see an example above) that were sent to Keating about efforts to manage the $20 million account. The financial advisors said their strategy was to unwind the portfolio piecemeal. The Sena's lawyer, Charles Reynolds, said during a Hamilton County Common Pleas court hearing last month that Keating gave no direct order to liquidate the shares:
"There are no documents which say sell Fifth Third. There are no e-mails that say sell Fifth Third or Gannett. There is nothing in writing that exists that says sell Fifth Third. All we have is the oral representations supposedly in place to sell Fifth Third. It is a 20-month relationship. Each month the Keatings got account statements. Several times a week, there are phone calls. Interspersed with that is written communications from Bill Sena describing what the account is doing."
Reynolds also noted during the hearing that Bill and Nancy Keating could have sold their stocks at any time on their own:
"Mr. and Mrs. Keating were the trustees at all times in question and they could have at any point before or after June 2007, diversified their portfolio. In fact, it would have been a simple matter to buy an S&P 500 fund and achieve complete diversification without the need to buy individual stocks. They elected not to do that. They elected to come to Sena, Weller, Rohs, Williams and Mr. Sena Sr., in particular, to use his investment expertise to make those stocks decisions, including the buy and selling of Fifth Third stock."
The lawsuit is pending under the caption Charles Miller, Trustee et al v. Sena Weller Rohs Williams LLC et al, Case No. A0911952. It is assigned to Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jerome J. Metz, who has scheduled a case management conference and hearing for Feb. 17 in his Cincinnati courtroom. The docket is available on the clerk of court's website.