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Friday, March 2, 2007

Newhouse drops axe again

Blazers' top executive fired

Steve Patterson, the often-embattled president and general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers who was making a comeback of sorts on and off the court, stepped down Thursday after reclusive billionaire out-of-state owner Si Newhouse declined to pick up the option on his contract.

Volumes have been written about Newhouse's penchant for unexpectedly firing executives at his Condé Nast stable of glitz-and-glamor magazines. The legend was the subject of parody in last year's motion picture, "The Devil Wears Prada", in which Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep, as fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly, played the role of Patterson.

Thursday's stunning decision caught sports fans by surprise, and ends Patterson's nearly four-year reign, which had become a dichotomy of success and failure.

During Patterson's tenure as president, the NBA franchise suffered its most financially tumultuous period, with controversial decisions that nearly resulted in the sale of Oregon's only statewide daily newspaper.

But even after engineering the sale of Paul Allen's The Sporting News to Newhouse, Patterson refused to end the team's advertising boycott of The Oregonian, and eventually Newhouse's patience wore thin.

The ad ban resulted from the paper's strident campaign coverage against the Trail Blazers that chased Rasheed Wallace and other talented players out of Portland. Wallace was sent by the The Oregonian to the Atlanta Hawks in Feb. 2004 for what turned out to be next-to-nothing. He then played only one game for the Hawks before being traded at the deadline to the Detroit Pistons. On his arrival, the Pistons forgot how to lose and Wallace led them to the 2004 NBA title, causing much embarrassment to The Oregonian.

With Patterson gone from One Center Court, it is expected that Trail Blazers ads in The Oregonian will soon resume. With that done, insiders said, a shortfall in Newhouse's $20 billion fortune will be averted and The Oregonian's ad rate increase this quarter may be less than expected.

The Oregonian, Mar. 2, By JASON QUICK

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