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Gordon Fisher, Head Of Southam Newspaper Chain, Dies

August 8, 1985 GMT

TORONTO (AP) _ Gordon Fisher, president and chief executive officer of Southam Inc., which publishes 15 daily newspapers in Canada, died Thursday of liver cancer in Toronto, a family spokesman said. He was 56.

Southam is loosely held by family members and institutional and private investors.

Fisher, president of Southam since 1975, was the latest in a line of family members to head the now-public company. William Southam began the newspaper dynasty by buying into the Hamilton Spectator in 1877.

There was no immediate word on a successor. Fisher’s retired predecessor, St. Clair Balfour, had assumed some of the president’s duties during his nephew’s illness.

Southam’s 15 newspapers compares with 40 Canadian dailies owned by Thomson Newspapers Ltd., its chief competitor. But the combined daily circulation of Southam members is slightly higher than that of the Thomson group.

Southam owns the Sault Star, the North Bay Nugget, Ottawa Citizen, Hamilton Spectator, Brantford Expositor, Windsor Star, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Medicine Hat News, Owen Sound Sun-Times, Kamloops News, Prince George Citizen, Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province.

It also owns the weekly Financial Times of Canada and has a minority interest in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

Other major Southam holdings include Coles bookstores, trade publications, commercial printing operations, and a string of diversified businesses.

As top man, Fisher made it clear that Southam would preserve its reputation for autonomy at its papers.

″Southam Press has always stuck to a policy that, having appointed people to be responsible for our publications, we don’t tell them on a week-to-week basis, or even a month-to-month or year-to-year basis, how to do their jobs,″ Fisher said.

Southam and Thomson had to answer in court in 1983 to conspiracy, merger and monopoly charges brought under Canada’s Combines Investigation Act. Both companies, with a number of subsidiaries, were acquitted after a long trial.

One charge involved Southam’s decision to close its money-losing Winnipeg Tribune in 1980.

Fisher is survived by his wife, the former Alison Nora Arbuckle of Montreal, and three sons.

A family spokesman said a private funeral is planned, for members of the immediate family only.