News Corp. to pay $500 million settlement

Pre-trial proceedings not to media company's liking

NEW YORK -- News Corp. on Saturday said it had agreed to a $500 million settlement just days before a trial opposite Valassis Communications, a newspaper advertisement inserts and coupon company.

Valassis had filed a lawsuit against News Corp.'s News America Marketing unit that was scheduled to go to trial in a Michigan federal court on Tuesday. It has also pursued two other lawsuits against the conglomerate's newspaper marketing operations.

Valassis claimed that News Corp. engaged in unfair competition and "tortious interference."

News Corp. has argued Valassis was trying to force it to raise News Corp.'s prices and reduce the number of coupons available.

The settlement also covers $300 million that Valassis was awarded in July in a Michigan circuit court that is on appeal, as well as a pending state court case in California.

Valassis was seeking $900 million in the latest case that was set to start Tuesday. Since it is an anti-trust suit, sources said the court could have tripled that amount.

News Corp. apparently had issues with the jury selection and rest of the process leading up to the case.

"It has become evident to our legal advisors from pre-trial proceedings over the past couple of weeks that significant risks were developing in presenting this case to a jury," said News Corp. deputy chairman, president and COO Chase Carey. "That, coupled with concerns over the venue, led us to believe it was in the best interests of the company and its stockholders to agree to a settlement."