Drinking & Reading

The Blue Moon saves itself; and Bill Gates loves newsprint.


Blue Moon Tavern owner Gus Hellthaler has come to terms with the city of Seattle on a compromise Community Good Neighbor Agreement, which had been the crux of the two sides' ongoing dispute. This imbroglio—namely City Attorney Tom Carr's opposition to renewing the Moon's beer-and-wine license over allegations that it's a haven for dope peddlers—posed the biggest threat to the historic U District tavern's existence since it was slated for demolition in the early '90s. As for Carr's attitude toward the peace accord at hand, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis says, "Tom's fine—he participated in the process and signed off." Hellthaler, who placed his tavern on the market a few months ago when negotiations came to an impasse, now has a more laissez-faire attitude toward selling his joint, which has been a popular hangout for Pulitzer Prize–winning poets and literary nobles such as Tom Robbins for almost a century. "[If] it doesn't sell, so it goes," he says. As for what changed his mind about signing the CGNA, Hellthaler explains: "The original [CGNA] said I had to maintain my shrubbery and all this sort of silly crap, while this one says I have to obey the laws of the city, county, and state—which is what we do anyway. It goes for general principles rather than specified behavior." MIKE SEELY


What does it say about the dinosaur newspaper industry that the world's richest man is investing in it? According to an Aug. 8 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, MediaNews Group Inc. has a $597.3 million line of credit from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other members of a lending consortium to finance its purchase of several San Francisco Bay Area newspapers. The filing does not specify exact amounts invested by the foundation or other consortium members, which include banks and insurance companies. MediaNews, which publishes the Detroit News, Denver Post, and other dailies, recently bought four papers from the McClatchy Co. for $1 billion. The deal was part of McClatchy's larger takeover of the now-defunct Knight-Ridder chain, buying 32 papers and selling off 11 of them. (K-R was the minority owner of The Seattle Times, a stake now held by McClatchy, which also owns The News Tribune of Tacoma, The Bellingham Herald, theTri-City Herald, and The Olympian.) The Gates consortium financing enabled MediaNews to complete its purchases of two of the largest papers in the Bay Area, the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. The Hearst Corp., owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the San Francisco Chronicle, also jumped into the deal. It now has a $299 million equity investment in MediaNews, according to the SEC, in return for a 30 percent stake in the company. It's an unusual alliance among publishers who compete on the same turf, but both corporations could benefit by squeezing out smaller area publications—assuming the coziness passes antitrust muster. For the Gates Foundation, it's just another day at the bank. It currently has $4 billion in holdings, according to a separate SEC filing the foundation made this week. The holdings include a $312 million stake in petroleum giant BP, $259 million in Costco, $222 million in

Waste Management, and a new, $32 million stake in Wal-Mart. RICK ANDERSON


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