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Chain reverses policy on political gifts

by Gerry McAuliffe


TORONTO—Four important announcements or disclosures came out of the annual meeting of Southam Incorporated held in Toronto April 25.

The first announcement involves a major change in corporate policy. For years, Southam policy has said the company will not undertake any financial interest in any enterprise outside the communications field.

However, Southam president Gordon Fisher told a meeting of shareholders and market analysts that Southam is expected to become partners with the Royal Bank of Canada in construction of a large office-hotel building in downtown Edmonton.

The Edmonton Journal is currently building a large $35 million production plant in the County of Strathcona on the outskirts of the city.

Although the agreement has not yet been signed, Fisher said economic aspects appear favorable. This would mean the Journal's editorial, advertising, circulation and executive offices would be housed in the new building on the existing site of the Journal building in the heart of the downtown section of the city.

The new building would consist of 1,200,000 square feet. The Journal would occupy 100,000 feet, the Royal Bank another 100,000 feet and the remaining 1,000,000 would be leased out.

Another change in corporate policy involves donations to political parties. Two years ago the Southam board decided to end all such donations. But in this year's annual report, Fisher said "at the request of several directors, the earlier decision was reviewed and reversed. As a result $10,000 was paid in 1979 to the federal party in power and to the party forming the official opposition."

"The company's re-instated policy excludes political donations to other federal parties, to provincial and municipal parties and to individual candidates for political office," Fisher said.

Southam has reached an agreement with P.P. Publications Ltd..publishers of the now defunct Montreal Star, to purchase the Star plant for $16,000,000. In return, P.P. has an option to purchase a one-third interest in The Gazette for $13,000,000.

The fourth announcement involved record corporate net income of $39,650,000—up 19.3 per cent over last year. (And, in the first three months of this year, Southam reported a 34.7 per cent gain in income—ahead of expectations.)

In 1979, Southam newspapers enjoyed substantial growth. Advertising revenue increased 22 per cent and circulation revenue by 14 per cent.

Several years ago the Southam board accepted a proposal from the United Church to subject the company to a social audit.

"This involved visits to a number of operating divisions by church representatives and discussions or questionnaires involving several hundred employees. In December of 1979, the audit report was released and its summary found that Southam is operated in a socially responsible manner," Fisher said.


Published in SOURCES May-June 1980


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