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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2007

Honolulu Advertiser gets new publisher

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lee P. Webber

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Title: President and publisher, The Honolulu Advertiser

Age: 60

Family: Wife, June Portusach; children Lee II, 29; Marilyn, 15; Robert, 8 (deceased)

Military experience: U.S. Navy corpsman, 1966-1970

Military awards: Presidential Unit Commendation (two awards); Navy Unit Commendation Medal (two awards); Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign Medals; National Defense Service Medal; Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal

Professional awards (partial list): Gannett Chairman's Ring for Fifth President's Ring (2003); Gannett Award for Sixth President's Ring (2004); Gannett Top Ten Publishers (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 2002, 2004)

Past president: Pacific Area Jaycees; Guam USO Advisory Council; Rotary Club of Tumon Bay; Air Force Association, Arc Light Chapter (twice); Navy League of the United States (twice); Guam Running club; Archery Association of Guam

Board memberships (partial list): Civil Defense Advisory Council/Guam Homeland Security; Guam Chamber of Commerce Board, chairman (also chairman of chamber's Armed Forces Committee); Guam Visitors Bureau; Make-A-Wish Foundation; Micronesian Divers Association; Robert Michael Webber Dyslexia Foundation; University of Guam Board of Regents; American Red Cross, Guam Chapter; Boy Scouts of America, Chamorro Council, district chairman; Guam Special Olympics Committee; Harvest Baptist Church; Juvenile Justice Board, Guam

Work history: Circulation manager, Guam Publications Inc. (1970-1976); director of community relations, Guam Publications Inc. (1976-1979); marketing director, Guam Publications Inc. (1979-1983); president and publisher, Guam Publications Inc. (1983-2007)

Hobbies: Archery, shooting, motorcycles, scuba diving, underwater photography

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Lee P. Webber, publisher of the Pacific Daily News on Guam, has been named president and publisher of The Honolulu Advertiser, replacing Mike Fisch, who assumes the same position at the Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y.

Both newspapers are owned by Gannett Co. Inc., the country's largest newspaper publishing company.

Fisch, 55, came to The Advertiser in 1998 after six years as president and chief executive officer of The Bakersfield Californian. He took over a daily and Sunday print edition of The Advertiser and used it as the foundation for a new operation that now includes a Web site filled with breaking news updates, videos, blogs, databases, photo galleries, special projects, community forums and 23 community Web sites that in July ranked the Web site fifth in page views out of Gannett's 85 daily newspapers.

In April, The Advertiser's videos were the most watched among Gannett newspapers.

Fisch also oversaw the construction of an $82 million printing plant in Kapolei; the dissolution of a joint operating agreement with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin; and the creation or acquisition of 90 different magazines, weekly newspapers and niche publications including a Japanese-language version of The Advertiser.

"I want to continue moving in the direction that Mike so ably moved it in the last nine years," Webber said yesterday. "I'll definitely be involved in the community, that's for sure."

Webber was active in Guam with community groups, including the Navy League of the United States, Guam Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts of America and Guam Visitors Bureau, and was a member of the University of Guam Board of Regents and several other organizations.

"Lee is here because he understands the Islands, he understands the Pacific, he understands Asia, he understands tourism," Fisch said. "You could not have a better choice."

Fisch leaves a legacy in the Islands of active community involvement and far-reaching improvements for The Advertiser, said Jim Tollefson, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, and Wayne Cahill, chief administrator of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, which represents unionized Advertiser journalists and other non-newsroom employees.

"I miss him already," Tollefson said. "His leadership has brought us to new levels with the military, both here in the Pacific and in Washington, D.C. The Web site is something that I refer to multiple times a day. That has definitely made an impact."

Years ago, as Bank of Hawaii's executive vice president in charge of domestic lending, Tollefson had lunch with Webber in Guam.

"I was impressed when I met him," Tollefson said. "He has high energy and seems to be a doer. He was a doer down there."

Cahill said the newspaper union had "a good working relationship with Fisch. Mike Fisch was certainly a good ambassador for the company in the community. He was very active in saving jobs at Pearl Harbor and he was president of the Aloha Boy Scout Council of America, where I had the opportunity to work with him. This new guy, we don't know him. But we look forward to working with him."


Webber, 60, has worked at the Pacific Daily News for 37 years and had been publisher since 1983.

He was raised in a Pennsylvania town that was so small Webber said no one would recognize it.

His father was a master machinist at a tool and die company and his mother worked for a semi-conductor parts manufacturer.

"She told me that when I was small, I said that I wanted to live in the Pacific some day," Webber said. "I've done that. I've stayed in the Pacific the entire time."

During the Vietnam War, Webber served as a Navy corpsman attached to a Marine unit with Delta Co., 3rd Recon Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in Khe Sanh, during the Tet Offensive of 1968, considered by historians to be a major turning point in the war.

He then served his final two years at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam when, in 1970, "I walked out of the back door of the Navy and into the front door of the newspaper," Webber said.

Stephen Nygard worked for Webber at the Pacific Daily News as a reporter, business editor and managing editor before leaving to start a rival monthly business magazine.

He called Webber "an extremely effective operations manager. I remember him coming up through the circulation and marketing side of the newspaper. Lee projected a good image and established it (the Pacific Daily News) as a good reflection of the community. He leaves it in good shape for his successor."

Webber and his wife, June, will celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary this year. They have a son, Lee II, 29, and will bring their 15-year-old daughter, Marilyn, who will enter a new school as a 10th-grader. Another son, Robert, died at the age of 8.

Webber also will bring his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a love for archery, pistol, rifle and shotgun shooting, and scuba diving as an NAUI-certified instructor/trainer.

"I'm looking forward to diving in Hawai'i," he said.

Among future projects for The Advertiser will be a proposal to possibly redevelop the site of the historic News Building in Kaka'ako at the corner of Kapi'olani Boulevard and South Street. Fisch said Gannett officials are working with CB Richard Ellis' national office to solicit proposals in the next six months.

"It will likely be a blend of commercial, office, light retail and residential," Fisch said. "It makes sense economically and it's a very desirable and important parcel in this city."

Gannett officials considered the idea two years ago during a different real estate market but postponed its plans.

"I'm not sure when it will happen," Fisch said. "But it will be very exciting when it does."

The potential project for the News Building in Kaka'ako means "a solid commitment by Gannett here," Fisch said. "We put an $82 million investment into Kapolei and we want to redevelop the downtown property because it makes sense."

Fisch began his newspaper career selling advertising in his hometown newspaper as a high school student in Fairmont, Minn. He also has worked at the Marshall (Minn.) Messenger & Independent, Rochester (Minn.) Post-Bulletin, Madison (Wis.) Newspapers Inc., and Hartford (Conn.) Courant.

"Our time in Hawai'i has been wonderful and my wife, Nancy, and I will both cherish our memories of the people we have had the honor to meet and work with," Fisch said in a statement announcing the changes. "Now we can come back as visitors."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Correction: Gannett Co. Inc. officials are working with CB Richard Ellis to solicit proposals within the next six months to possibly redevelop the site of the historic News Building in Kaka'ako at the corner of Kapi'olani Boulevard and South Street, where The Honolulu Advertiser is headquartered. Another company was incorrectly identified in a previous version of this story.