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Want To Be Like Mike?

We don't know for certain, but it's likely Pulitzer Inc. chairman Michael E. Pulitzer is through selling stock for a while. He's zeroed out the shares under his direct control, selling the last 1.500 shares in hand Feb. 7 for $63.34 a share. The deal grossed $95,460. Since Jan. 1, MEP has sold 37,000 shares of PTZ (the company's New York Stock Exchange symbol), raising almost $2.4 million.

He hasn't gone back into his piece of the family voting trust for more--that's about 1.4 million shares, worth a little more than $92 million at the $64-per-share price Lee Enterprises has agreed to pay for taking over Pulitzer's dozen daily newspapers (including the Arizona Daily Star) and 100 specialty publications. The sale is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

It's probably worth knowing that MEP receives $58,333.33 a month ($700,000 a year) as a consultant and senior advisor to the company. The contract winds up in May 2006, but he will also get a lump sum for any payments remaining when the Lee merger closes.

We're not sure how many reporters at the Star gross $58,333 a year. Probably very few, and those who do are probably senior enough to have known Mo Udall before he ran for president.

For comparison's sake, under the flagship St. Louis Post-Dispatch's contract with the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, a reporter with eight years' daily newspaper experience gets a minimum of $57,564 per year, while a copy editor with eight years' daily newspaper experience grosses at least $58,260.


FAMI-LEE PLANNING

Although they're still in the trading-info phase, Pulitzer Inc. and Lee Enterprises officials are starting to put the word out about how things will move in the coming months, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The merger, which is expected to close in May or June, has a deadline of Aug. 2. The companies expect to clear federal antitrust review in mid-March, with a shareholder vote expected around April 30.

The transition plan appears to offer some good things for employees, such as a dollar-for-dollar match on contributions to Lee's retirement fund. Lee also offers an employee stock-purchase plan, while Pulitzer only solicited its employees twice, offering discounted shares when the company went public, and then when it moved its listing from NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange.

There are some questions pending that could be really interesting in terms of seeing just how big a disparity will remain after the merger between Star newsroom employees and their unionized cousins in St. Louis.

Lee has promised to honor all existing union contracts; The Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Newspaper Guild signed a five-year deal in June 2004.

The union contract also sets mileage for P-D staffers at 41 cents per mile; Star staffers are reimbursed at 28 cents per mile. As of Jan. 1, the Internal Revenue Service allows a deduction of 40.5 cents per mile. (The 11.5-cents-per-mile difference offers a small amount of tax help to Star staffers who are homeowners, but we doubt that group includes some newer graduates who are also whittling away on college loans and the like.)

We're also left to wonder if Lee will be more generous than Pulitzer is about holiday pay. P-D staffers receive double-time-and-a-half for working holidays, while Star staffers get straight time and a day off to be scheduled later.


DIALED IN AGAIN

Andy Taylor recently returned to the morning drive scene at KLPX, sharing the morning show duties with Jonas Hunter, the station's program director. Andy put the word out a couple of weeks ago on the barryandandy.com Web site, explaining that it was a decision involving his family.

He also thanked longtime radio show partner Barry Donovan for understanding, and said that he hoped their radio act would be reunited in the future.

Shannon Black, whose morning gig with Star 97.5 (KSZR-FM) ended when Star became BOB-FM, is back on the air, working midmornings on KIIM-FM. Monday, Feb. 21, was her first day in the new gig. She's working 9 a.m. to noon weekdays, and noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays. KIIM and KSZR are both Citadel Broadcasting properties.


MEANWHILE, IN A NORTHERN TOWN

Phoenix Local 58-M of the Graphics Communications International Union and The Arizona Republic are embroiled in a dispute that's pushing the pucker factor for newspaper-circulation execs across the country. Newspapers usually contend that their carriers are independent contractors, but sometimes, they're really mis-titled employees.

The GCIU, which recently merged with the Teamsters, is on a nationwide campaign to organize carriers. In October, Cornele A. Overstreet, the National Labor Relations Board regional director in Phoenix, ruled that the Republic's carriers were actually employees because of the degree of control the Republic exercised over their work and because they have "little meaningful opportunity for gain or loss" under their contracts.

Overstreet noted that Republic carriers cannot resell their papers to increase their profits and have little control over their schedules or routes. In addition, the Gannett-owned Republic contracts with other newspapers--including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times--to provide home delivery services, and requires its carriers to throw those papers as well.

Carriers voted on representation in October, but the ballots have been sequestered while Gannett appeals Overstreet's ruling.

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