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Thursday, Jan 26, 2023

Judge Denies Bid to Seal LA Weekly Lawsuit

A judge denied Sept. 18 LA Weekly publisher Brian Calle’s attempt to take out of the public record a lawsuit that LA Weekly co-owner David Welch filed against Calle and other LA Weekly investors.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant made the ruling in court after oral arguments, according to Rory Miller, an attorney for Welch.

Calle and his co-defendants, who operate under Semenal Media, argued that Welch violated business confidentiality provisions by stating who owned what percentage of the LA Weekly in Welch’s complaint.

But Chalfant stated, according to Miller, that such information was bound to become public during any business ownership litigation.

Chalfant also concluded there was not enough evidence to show that Welch worked in a legal, and not ownership, capacity in his Semanal Media work.

Calle and other LA Weekly investors brought on Welch, a lawyer who specializes in cannabis transactions, to prepare the company’s legal incorporation.

Calle’s failed attempt to seal the motion comes three weeks after Welch filed his lawsuit. The complaint accuses Semenal Media of breaching its fiduciary duty to Welch as well as reneging on contractual agreements.

A message left with Calle was not returned.

Welch, who used to be listed on the LA Weekly masthead as its chief operating officer, accused Calle of “breathtaking incompetence, self-dealing and fraudulent intention.”

The lawsuit provides an approximation of each ownership stake in Semanal Media. Calle has a 17 percent stake, according to the lawsuit. Welch has a 13 percent stake. Lily Li and her son Kevin Xu, executives at cosmetics and nutritional supplement company Mebo International, own 26 percent of the publication. Steve Mehr, an Orange County attorney, owns 12 percent. Andy Bequer, owner of Experience Recovery addiction treatment center in Fountain Valley, owns 8 percent. Property developer Michael Mugel, who owns Red Mountain Group, has a 6 percent stake. Lawyer Wayne Gross owns 5 percent, and his law partner Alan Greenberg has a 1 percent buy-in. Paul Makarechian, a hotel developer, owns 4 percent. Professional skateboarder Nyjah Hutson owns 2 percent.

There is a 5 percent membership interest in the company that, according to the lawsuit, “has yet to be issued to any current or new members.”

Media and entertainment reporter Matthew Blake can be reached at (323)556-8332 or mblake@labusinessjournal.com


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