Op Ed: Publisher says Review seeks to control ad prices in Rancho Santa Fe

I rarely get on the pulpit. It takes something really, really wrong to get me going.
Enter Anthony Allegretti, the bully.
He is the CEO of the Rancho Santa Fe Review.
He is bullying me to “fix” my advertising prices to be as high as his are.
This is a direct attack against all Rancho Santa Fe advertisers — present and future. If I were to cave in, he would have no competition in the marketplace.
Here’s what he’s doing.
Last Friday I received a package of documents from Allegretti, who publishes numerous publications here in San Diego and elsewhere.
He is a big-time publisher compared to me and is backed by well-funded investment bankers. We’re talking billions here.
This “nice” package I received from Allegretti dated Feb. 14 — my valentine, I guess — contained a threat to sue me and the Rancho Santa Fe News for a violation of the California Fair Practice Act and various violations of other antitrust legislation.
He alleged I was charging too little for my ads in 2010, thereby causing him to lose money. He said that if I didn’t raise my rates he would sue me for $900,000 (three times his lost revenue) and my legal fees would be around $2 million.
That is his position.
That is also a threat.
I used to have five newspapers. I closed three of them and one office because they weren’t profitable.
If the Rancho Santa Fe News’ low ad rates were causing me to lose money, as his threatened lawsuit implies, why would I keep publishing it?
His “package” is nothing but a scare tactic and also smacks of price collusion. If I were to charge what he wants me to charge for advertising, what happens to “fair competition in the marketplace?” All advertisers will be forced to pay the same rate, which will be set by Allegretti.
I run a tight business and don’t have any debt service or investment bankers to pay off. Allegretti does, so maybe that’s why he has to charge more for his ads.
Maybe he just wants no competition so he can price “gouge.”
In the end, it will be the advertiser that will be hurt.
My only reason for writing this editorial is to expose Allegretti as a mean-spirited scoundrel of a businessman and to warn current and prospective advertisers of his tactics.
I just recently learned that Allegretti served the same Valentine’s Day package to a fellow publisher who competes with Allegretti in La Jolla.
This time he got the desired reaction. Already struggling with the economy, this publisher became very upset that he could face the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars and the cost of $2 million in legal fees.
Here comes the good part.
Allegretti meets with this publisher and offers to buy the competing paper for a fraction of its value or says he will sue.
If you ask me, that is also an unfair business practice and just plain mean.
If he buys it, he will probably close it, creating a price fixing situation much the same as he is trying to do in Rancho Santa Fe. La Jolla advertisers will suffer.
If you currently advertise with the Review, I just want you to know where your money is going — to Allegretti and his investment bankers.
Perhaps when your contract is up with the Review, you might want to give us a call.
Obviously we charge less. We also give more.
In addition to being distributed everywhere the Review is, the Rancho Santa Fe News is mailman-delivered to 1,100 homes in the Santaluz area and 500 homes in the Rancho Pacifica area. The Review leaves these areas out of their circulation.
I am not going to allow Allegretti and the Review to scare me into raising my ad prices.
I’ve consulted a friend in the San Diego District Attorney’s office. I was advised to have my lawyer send a warning to Allegretti and his backers that they should cease any further action. Perhaps they aren’t smart enough to know that what they’re doing is illegal, so my lawyer is currently drafting a letter to them explaining the law.
They are leaving themselves open to some very serious legal ramifications and all advertisers will suffer.


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