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— But these chains are capitalized at significantly lower multiples of sales: New York Times Company 1.11, Tribune Company (including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times) 1.54, Knight-Ridder 1.40, Belo 1.39, Lee Enterprises 1.52, Media General 1.22, Journal Communications (including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) 1.14, and Journal Register Co. 0.85.

Of those, Lee Enterprises, which among other things owns the North County Times, most resembles Copley Press. Both companies are strictly in newspapers. Lee is larger than Copley (58 dailies, 30 weeklies, daily circulation of 1.7 million) and has papers in slow-growing, midsize markets in states such as Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois, plus some in California and Arizona. Lee rakes in about the same percentage of earnings power from sales as Copley does.

If Copley should be capitalized at Lee's 1.52 times sales, then David Copley is far from a billionaire on paper, although he should have no problem paying for incidentals such as the individually tailored yacht he is having built up in Washington.

David has had a heart implant, and insiders engage in guessing games whether the company plans to sell itself eventually or be run by a nonprofit foundation. Fuson won't address such issues, but he emphasizes that Copley Press is not for sale. He won't say whether the company may buy some of the papers McClatchy will sell if the proposed purchase of Knight-Ridder goes through as currently anticipated.

"We feel the newspaper business is a sound business," says Fuson. Tell it to Wall Street.

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