The most bitter newspaper war in Denver right now is between two papers most people have never heard of.
The dispute pits the publisher against the former editor of the Women's Business News, a biweekly paper that has offered profiles of local businesswomen and articles on workplace issues for the past year. The newspaper, which claims a readership of 24,000, has been successful enough to make plans to go weekly, and that success was recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners in March. The group's Denver chapter gave editor Alice Borodkin its Women of the West award. An ad in the local media announcing the award described Borodkin as "founder, owner and editor" of the publication. That came as news to Mazen "Jim" Kherdeen, the publisher and owner of Women's Business News.
Kherdeen says that, unbeknownst to him, Borodkin had been telling people she was the owner of the newspaper for some time. But he didn't know that until he saw the announcement of the NAWBO award winners. "We got to know about it through an ad in the Denver Business Journal," he recalls. "When I saw the ad, I said 'Oh, boy, what's going on here?' I called her to my office and said, 'You're out of here.'"
After Borodkin was fired, she retaliated by starting her own newspaper, the Women's Business Chronicle, which has the motto "Not Just Business As Usual." Borodkin, who claims a circulation of 10,000, insists she was the founder of the Women's Business News and that Kherdeen was simply an investor. "I conceived that paper and designed that paper," she says. "I owned that paper. Mr. Kherdeen gave money to the paper. He was an investor. This is a perfect example of an unfortunate business relationship that dissolved."
Kherdeen, who owns several other small pub-lications, says that he and Borodkin were once friends, socializing with each other's spouses and children. He says he has owned the newspaper from the beginning but that he allowed Borodkin to create a subsidiary, Alice Borodkin & Associates, that was wholly owned by his company, The Kher Group. Documents on file at the Colorado Secretary of State's office show that Borodkin resigned as the registered agent of the subsidiary in March, and they clearly list Kherdeen as president.
According to Kherdeen, Borodkin is now claiming she sold the newspaper to his company. "She went around to a few of our advertisers telling them she sold me the paper," he says. "It's a cheap way for her to get business." For her part, Borodkin maintains that Kherdeen cheated her out of her rightful share of the publication. "He took everything away from me," she says. "But I've got my own newspaper now."
The dispute threatened to disrupt the NAWBO banquet in March, which featured Colorado Symphony conductor Marin Alsop as guest speaker. Kherdeen told NAWBO officials he would stand up and challenge Borodkin if she were introduced as the owner of the newspaper. Instead, NAWBO chose to recognize Borodkin as a distinguished businesswoman and omit any reference to ownership.
The controversy became an issue on the NAWBO board as well. Some boardmembers believed the group owed Kherdeen an apology, while others insisted that it was Borodkin who had been wronged. "There was a heated discussion at the board meeting," says Colleen Boyle, a NAWBO boardmember who coordinated the banquet and later left the group because of the controversy. "There were several boardmembers who thought Alice was right and this was some kind of evil plot." Boyle believes Borodkin's friendship with NAWBO's president, Catherine Chandler, colored the board's view. "When there's a personal relationship with the president of the organization, it makes things difficult," she says. Boyle, who describes Kherdeen as "a man of honor," was so disturbed by the board's handling of the situation that she decided to end her involvement with the group.
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Chandler defends the selection of Borodkin for the award. "The nomination was made by a committee of NAWBO members for recognition of the work she did in creating Women's Business News," she says, adding that she believes the ownership of the newspaper is still in dispute. Chandler is listed as a contributing writer in Borodkin's new newspaper.
And the sniping between Borodkin and Kherdeen continues. Borodkin ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat on the Denver Election Commission. Kherdeen says that after Borodkin left, he discovered she had promised free advertising in the newspaper to the company that printed her election brochures. Borodkin says she ran one ad for the printing company "as a favor."
Now hoping to "put this behind me," Borodkin says she simply wants to put out her own newspaper for women in business. And she's keeping in mind some advice she once received from a former employer. "I had a boss who told me, 'If you're going to stick your neck out, it may get chopped off,'" she recalls.
As a result of the whole controversy, Denver now has two newspapers for women in business. But some women business owners believe the whole episode has cast a shadow over NAWBO. "People look at NAWBO as representing the women's business community," says one prominent Denver businesswoman who declines to be identified. "But it's a bunch of catty, backbiting women. These women's newspapers are putting us to shame.