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METROPOLITAN BANK v. ST. LOUIS DISPATCH COMPANY.

decided: May 10, 1893.

METROPOLITAN BANK
v.
ST. LOUIS DISPATCH COMPANY.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI.

Author: Fuller

[ 149 U.S. Page 444]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.

In the language of counsel for appellant this bill "was filed for the foreclosure of a mortgage upon a certain newspaper, a newspaper plant, and a membership in the Western Associated Press." The contention is that the newspaper, plant, and membership were subject to the lien of the Sutton mortgage as one homogeneous property, and that any property of like kind substituted for any portion lost or destroyed became subject to this lien; that the identity of the newspaper, the membership, and the plant, remained up to July 1, 1887, when

[ 149 U.S. Page 445]

     the bill was filed, and that the defendant was estopped to deny such identity because of the similarity of the names; the wilful confusion of the good wills; the obtaining of the second certificate in lieu of the first; and because from the character of the plant all the changes made were in the nature of repairs, parts being replaced from time to time by reason of constant wear and tear, from which resulted a confusion of chattels, making the identification of the several parts of the plant impossible.

On December 1, 1879, when the note matured, and the defendant, the Dispatch Publishing Company, refused to pay it or to surrender the property on the demand of the trustee, the bill stated that none of the original presses, type, and paraphernalia for printing a newspaper, described in the mortgage, were in existence. The bill was not framed on the theory of holding the defendant for the value of the mortgaged chattels on the ground of wrongful conversion, nor was it charged that there was any wrongful intermingling of the original plant with that subsequently acquired, either by the St. Louis Dispatch Company, or the purchaser under the second mortgage, or his grantee, the Dispatch Publishing Company. The allegation was that the machinery, type, presses, and property of a perishable nature had been alienated or destroyed or gradually used up. This was done in the course of business, and as the plant on hand at the maturity of the note was an entirely new plant, not described in the mortgage, we think the mortgage could not be extended to it upon the theory of wilful intermingling. The clause in the Sutton mortgage in relation to after-acquired property was an executory agreement for the non-performance of which the mortgagee might recover compensation in damages as against the mortgagor, but as against the grantee of the purchaser at the sale, the lien of the mortgage could not embrace what had no existence when it was given, and was not acquired by the mortgagor, and if such grantee were liable at all it would be for the conversion of the existing property, and no foundation for such a charge is laid here, irrespective of the objection that the remedy would be at law.

[ 149 U.S. Page 446]

     Undoubtedly, good will is in many cases a valuable thing, although there is difficulty in deciding accurately what is included under the term. It is tangible only as an incident, as connected with a going concern or business having locality or name, and is not susceptible of being disposed of independently. Mr. Justice Story defined good will to be "the advantage or benefit, which is acquired by an establishment, beyond the mere value of the capital, stock, funds, or property employed therein, in consequence of the general public patronage and encouragement which it receives from constant or habitual customers, on account of its local position, or common celebrity, or reputation for skill or affluence, or punctuality, or from other accidental circumstances or necessity, or even from ancient partialities or prejudices." Story Part. ยง 99.

As applied to a newspaper, the good will usually attaches to its name rather than to the place of publication. The probability of the title continuing to attract custom in the way of circulation and advertising patronage, gives a value which may be protected and disposed of, and constitutes property.

On the 9th of December, 1878, the St. Louis Dispatch Company ceased business as the publisher of a newspaper, and on that day another newspaper was published under the name of the Post-Dispatch. If the Dispatch Publishing Company acquired the good will of the St. Louis Dispatch Company, it also acquired the good will of the Post. The Sutton mortgage covered the good will of the St. Louis Dispatch, but it did not embrace the good will of the Dispatch Publishing Company or of the newspaper known as the Post-Dispatch, as existing July 1, 1887. Indeed, if there had been no consolidation with any other paper, and the good will that the St. Louis Dispatch had in 1878 had been conveyed to a separate concern, it could hardly be held that the good will of the latter eight years afterwards was the same good will which had been conveyed. Moreover, the good will of the Dispatch Publishing Company was from the first different from the good will named in the mortgage.

[ 149 U.S. Page 447]

     The paper was of a different name and issued by a different company and the good will was the joint good will, as we have said, of two papers. And if the Dispatch Publishing Company acquired on the 10th day of December, 1878, the good will belonging to the St. Louis Dispatch, for which it should have accounted, but refused to account, then it would be only liable as for a conversion, for the lien of the mortgage certainly could not extend to a good will which there was no pretence was ever embraced in it.

However, it is urged that the Dispatch Publishing Company did in fact acquire the place of business of the St Louis Dispatch Company and the existing plant with the good will attached thereto, subject to the lien of the first mortgage; that when it consolidated the property and good will so acquired with the property and good will of the other newspaper, it retained the word "Dispatch" as part of the name; that it paid the interest up to October 1, 1879; and that its conduct was such as to amount to a direct representation to the mortgagee that it had agreed to put itself in the shoes of the mortgagor. Hence it is contended that the averment of the bill that the Dispatch Publishing Company agreed and assumed to pay the mortgage debt was justified as a legal conclusion upon the principle of estoppel. We do not concur in this view. It is admitted that there was no express or direct promise on the part of the defendant to pay the mortgage debt, and it cannot be held that the mere purchase of premises subject to a mortgage ...


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