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April 13, 2007 / Toby Dayton

A New Defense For Corporate Espionage: Excel Formatting

One of the great things about writing a blog that includes some commentary on the daily newspaper industry is the endless supply of material. Every sufficiently large city has a daily newspaper, most are inept, and they provide a perpetual stream of things to write about. It’s not unlike The Showbiz Show With David Spade, where the primary issue is how to reduce the mountains of humorous celebrity fodder into a weekly 30 minute show. Like Spade and his writers, I don’t have to work too hard to come up with things to write about because I can just pick up my morning paper and, with an amazingly high degree of frequency, I am generously provided ample material. And it happened again this morning with a story about the paper itself and its new publisher Par Ridder who are being sued by Ridder’s former employer, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, for sharing sensitive information with Star Tribune colleagues.

While the story has been in the news for some time, new details are beginning to emerge about the specific information that was shared (customer lists, strategic plans, financial data, and advertising rates). But the best part of the story is Ridder’s claims about what he was actually doing when he sent emails to his colleagues with Excel attachments containing the information. When the Pioneer Press found out about the emails and the files that were sent, Ridder claimed he was merely showing the Star Tribune executives the format of the reports, which he liked. The communication then would have been, “When you open up these Excel files, please ignore the P&L data, the long list of customers we can go after, and the ad rates we can undercut. Just focus on the Pioneer Press’ masterful use of the Times New Roman font, their brilliant use of Microsoft’s color palette, and how they have built these tremendous charts and graphs. That’s the critical stuff we need to emulate in order to compete against these guys.” It’s as good as one of Mel Gibson’s drunken tirades or Britney Spears’ psychotic haircuts. You just can’t make it up.

[tags]Star Tribune, Par Ridder, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Star Tribune Lawsuit, David Spade, The Showbiz Show, Comedy Central, Avista Capital Partners, Corporate Espionage, Employment Agreements, Mel Gibson, Britney Spears, Microsoft Excel, Brilliant Excel Formatting[/tags]

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