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  • James Yamasaki
The ornately nutty backstory—including all the seized delivery vans, murderous editors, irate blog posts, allegations of insanity, and connections to the Church of Satan that a media junkie could ever dream of—can be found right here.

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But the basics are as follows:

After a six-week trial in 2008, a San Francisco jury found that the city's SF Weekly (which happens to be owned by Village Voice Media, the same people who own the Village Voice, the LA Weekly, and the Seattle Weekly) had engaged in what's colloquially known as "predatory pricing." Meaning, the SF Weekly sold advertising below cost in the San Francisco market with the intent of harming its arch-rival, the independently owned San Francisco Bay Guardian.

The damages awarded to the Bay Guardian after that trial now stand at about $22 million and counting. The SF Weekly and its owners have refused to pay any damages, preferring to roll the dice on an appeal, and today the results came back as the California Court of Appeals issued its decision.

What did the appeals court decide?

In sum, the appeals court found that the trial court "did not err" in any of the ways SF Weekly and its owners alleged in their appeal.* It also ruled that "substantial evidence supports the finding of damages suffered by plaintiff [the Bay Guardian]." Which means: The roughly $22 million (and counting) judgment against the SF Weekly and its parent company stands.

I'll update with comments from the parties involved as I receive them. But if you're wondering what the stakes really are in this lawsuit, here's how I described them back in March:

So much is riding on the outcome of this war—including more than $21 million (those interest charges add up quickly), the manner in which people are allowed to do business in the state of California, and the reputations of two of the alternative-newsweekly industry's most stubborn personalities—that the winner is bound to profoundly wound the loser, possibly mortally.

If its parent company's appeals are not successful, SF Weekly could end up shuttered, leaving San Francisco with one less editorial perspective and many fewer employed journalists. Its parent company—which under the leadership of [Mike] Lacey and his majority co-owner, Jim Larkin, has become the largest alt-weekly chain in the United States, publisher of the Village Voice, the LA Weekly, the Seattle Weekly, and 11 other papers—could end up in bankruptcy; or be forced to sell off some of its papers to pay the multimillion-dollar judgment; or have its assets seized by its largest creditor, Bank of Montreal, to which it currently owes $80 million; or, in the worst-case scenario, all of the above...

All of these things are now possible in an incredible fight that still rages today, despite relatively humble beginnings, in January of 1995, in a loft office in downtown San Francisco.

*Except for one thing: The court did agree that another San Francisco area weekly, the East Bay Express, which was once owned by the same people who own SF Weekly, had not been proven to be "an agent of the SF Weekly" in the below-cost ad pricing scheme. Therefore, the court removed East Bay Express from the list of parties on the hook for the $22 million judgment. Remaining on the hook for the judgment: SF Weekly and its owners.

UPDATE: Settlement negotiations.