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— For years, rumors have swirled around the question of whether Copley Press, Inc., intends to sell off its newspaper empire, including San Diego's own Union-Tribune, to Chicago-based Tribune Company or another big media conglomerate. Elderly company matriarch Helen Copley, who inherited the newspapers from her late husband James in 1974, is said to be in poor health and has long been cloistered in her La Jolla mansion, called "Fox Hill." Her only heir, son David, who is titular president of the company, lives in a compound of houses he calls "Fox Hole," just down the street from his mother's place, and has seemed more interested in collecting antiques and yachting on the French Riviera than the newspaper business. Though rumors of the sale to Tribune Co. have been repeatedly denied, Copley's latest move in its home state of Illinois is raising eyebrows again. Last week the company announced it is thinking of unloading its Fox Valley Press subsidiary, which publishes 4 daily and 15 nondaily newspapers in suburban Chicago. According to various published reports, Copley might also be considering some kind of merger. The company has reportedly retained the services of New York-based Suhler & Associates LLC, a big-time media broker, to assist in the search for a buyer. "The hard work of our Fox Valley employees has built a strong foundation, and the markets served by those papers are rapidly growing," Charles Patrick, Copley's chief operating officer, said in a statement released last Thursday and picked up by the Associated Press.

Jack McGrory's Price

It turns out that ex-city manager and Padres honcho Jack McGrory -- whose "return" to mega-millionaire Sol Price has been ballyhooed in local media accounts -- never left Price in the first place. According to a disclosure filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission on April 28, McGrory, 50, has been chairman of the board of Price Enterprises all along. When an outfit called Excel Legacy took over majority ownership of the company earlier this year, McGrory, who stepped down as president, "received a base salary of $227,281 and a cash-incentive bonus of $41,920. In connection with the exchange offer, Mr. McGrory also received approximately $360,000 in severance payments and $992,582 in consideration for the cancellation of stock options." ... David Atherton, one-time San Diego Symphony music director and founder of the Mainly Mozart festival, is taking his leave of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has been director for the past 11 years, reports the South China Morning Post. According to the Post, "the Chinese-language newspapers have been in a feeding frenzy over whether his involvement of the Philharmonic in his own commercial Internet music company is, to say the least, dubious."Atherton, who told the paper that he planned to tour the world as a freelance conductor, was quoted as saying of the controversy: "Until the early part of this year, everything was reasonably hunky-dory in terms of the future and what people saw of the funding structure of the orchestra. Into this whole melée of orchestra members trying to find pressure points and ways and means of strengthening their own case, all sorts of incredibly irrelevant, spurious things get thrown into the pot."

Guilty as charged

Dr. Robert Weitzel, that ex-UCSD psychiatric resident tried in Utah for killing five elderly patients with drug overdoses, has been convicted on two counts of manslaughter, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and three counts of negligent homicide, punishable by up to one year in jail. "I can't believe it. I can't believe this verdict," Weitzel told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I thought it was going to be not guilty." In 1995, UCSD quietly settled a malpractice case against Weitzel and the university's medical center brought by a female patient who alleged the doctor repeatedly abused drugs obtained from UCSD hospitals and clinics and had conducted a sexual relationship with her during which she got pregnant and had an abortion. Weitzel still faces federal drug charges and an investigation into a patient death at a Texas hospital where he worked after leaving UCSD.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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