As election day approached, the presidential race became too close to call.

"We've got to win Ohio," Peter Tager said. "That's twenty-one electoral votes. We're all right with Alabama - that's nine votes - and we have Florida's twenty-five votes." He held up a chart. "Illinois, twenty-two votes...New York, thirty-three, and California, forty-four. It's just too damned early to call it."

Everyone was concerned except Senator Davis.

"I've got a nose," he said. "I can smell victory."

In a Frankfort hospital, Miriam Friedland was still in a coma.

On election day, the first Tuesday in November, Leslie stayed home to watch the returns on television. Oliver Russell won by more than two million popular votes and a huge majority of electoral votes. Oliver Russell was the president now, the biggest target in the world.

No one had followed the election campaign more closely than Leslie Stewart Chambers. She had been busily expanding her empire and had acquired a chain of newspapers and television and radio stations across the United States, as well as in England, Australia, and Brazil.

"When are you going to have enough?" her chief editor, Darin Solana, asked.

"Soon," Leslie said. "Soon."

There was one more step she had to take, and the last piece fell into place at a dinner party in Scottsdale.

A guest said, "I heard confidentially that Margaret Portman is getting a divorce." Margaret Portman was the owner of the Washington Tribune, in the nation's capital.

Leslie had no comment, but early the following morning, she was on the telephone with Chad Morton, one of her attorneys. "I want you to find out if the Washington Tribune is for sale."

The answer came back later that day. "I don't know how you heard about it, Mrs. Chambers, but it looks as though you could be right. Mrs. Portman and her husband are quietly getting a divorce, and they're dividing up their property. I think Washington Tribune Enterprises is going up for sale."

" I want to buy it."

"You're talking about a megadeal. Washington Tribune Enterprises owns a newspaper chain, a magazine, a television network, and - "

"I want it."

That afternoon, Leslie and Chad Morton were on their way to Washington, D.C.

Leslie telephoned Margaret Portman, whom she had met casually a few years earlier.

"I'm in Washington," Leslie said, "and I - "

"I know."

Word gets around fast, Leslie thought. "I heard that you might be interested in selling Tribune Enterprises."


"I wonder if you would arrange a tour of the paper for me?"

"Are you interested in buying it, Leslie?"


Margaret Portman sent for Matt Baker. "Do you know who Leslie Chambers is?"

"The Ice Princess. Sure."

"She'll be here in a few minutes. I'd like you to take her on a tour of the plant."

Everyone at the Tribune was aware of the impending sale.

"It would be a mistake to sell the Tribune to Leslie Chambers," Matt Baker said flatly.

"What makes you say that?"

"First of all, I doubt if she really knows a damn thing about the newspaper business. Have you looked at what she's done to the other papers she bought? She's turned respectable newspapers into cheap tabloids. She'll destroy the Tribune. She's - " He looked up. Leslie Chambers was standing in the doorway, listening.

Margaret Portman spoke up. "Leslie! How nice to see you. This is Matt Baker, our editor in chief of Tribune Enterprises."

They exchanged cool greetings.

"Matt is going to show you around."

"I'm looking forward to it."

Matt Baker took a deep breath. "Right. Let's get started."

At the beginning of the tour, Matt Baker said con-descendingly, "The structure is like this: At the top is the editor in chief - "

"That would be you, Mr. Baker."

"Right. And under me, the managing editor and the editorial staff. That includes Metro, National, Foreign, Sports, Business, Life and Style, People, Calendar, Books, Real Estate, Travel, Food... I'm probably leaving a few out."

"Amazing. How many employees does Washington Tribune Enterprises have, Mr. Baker?"

"Over five thousand."

They passed a copy desk. "Here's where the news editor lays out the pages. He's the one who decides where the photos are going to go and which stories appear on which pages. The copy desk writes the headlines, edits the stories, and then puts them together in the composing room."


"Are you interested in seeing the printing plants?"

"Oh, yes. I'd like to see everything."

He mumbled something under his breath.

"I'm sorry?"

"I said, 'Fine.'"

They took the elevator down and walked over to the next building. The printing plant was four stories high and the size of four football fields. Everything in the huge space was automated. There were thirty robot carts in the building, carrying enormous rolls of paper that they dropped off at various stations.

Baker explained, "Each roll of paper weighs about twenty-five hundred pounds. If you unrolled one, it would be eight miles long. The paper goes through the presses at twenty-one miles an hour. Some of the bigger carts can carry sixteen rolls at once."

There were six presses, three on each side of the room. Leslie and Matt Baker stood there and watched as the newspapers were automatically assembled, cut, folded, put into bales, and delivered to the trucks waiting to carry them off.

"In the old days it took about thirty men to do what one man can do today," Matt Baker said. "The age of technology."

Leslie looked at him a moment. "The age of downsizing."

"I don't know if you're interested in the economics of the operation?" Matt Baker asked dryly. "Perhaps you'd prefer your lawyer or accountant to - "

"I'm very interested, Mr. Baker. Your editorial budget is fifteen million dollars. Your daily circulation is eight hundred and sixteen thousand, four hundred and seventy-four, and one million, one hundred and forty thousand, four hundred and ninety-eight on Sunday, and your advertising is sixty-eight point two."

Matt looked at her and blinked.

"With the ownership of all your newspapers, your daily circulation is over two million, with two million four Sunday circulation. Of course, that's not the largest paper in the world, is it, Mr. Baker? Two of the largest newspapers in the world are printed in London. The Sun is the biggest, with a circulation of four million daily. The Daily Mirror sells over three million."

He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize you - "

"In Japan, there are over two hundred dailies, including Asahi Shimbun, Mainchi Shimbun, and Yomiuri Shimbun. Do you follow me?"

"Yes. I apologize if I seemed patronizing."

"Accepted, Mr. Baker. Let's go back to Mrs. Portman's office."

The next morning, Leslie was in the executive conference room of the Washington Tribune, facing Mrs. Portman and half a dozen attorneys.

"Let's talk about price," Leslie said. The discussion lasted four hours, and when it was over, Leslie Stewart Chambers was the owner of Washington Tribune Enterprises.

It was more expensive than Leslie had anticipated. It did not matter.

There was something more important.

The day the deal was finalized, Leslie sent for Matt Baker. "What are your plans?" Leslie asked.

"I'm leaving."

She looked at him curiously. "Why?"

"You have quite a reputation. People don't like working for you. I think the word they use most is 'ruthless.' I don't need that. This is a good newspaper, and I hate to leave it, but I have more job offers than I can handle."

"How long have you worked here?"

"Fifteen years."

"And you're going to just throw that away?"

"I'm not throwing anything away, I'm - "

She looked him in the eye. "Listen to me. I think the Tribune is a good newspaper, too, but I want it to be a great newspaper. I want you to help me."

"No. I don't - "

"Six months. Try it for six months. We'll start by doubling your salary."

He studied her for a long moment. Young and beautiful and intelligent. And yet...He had an uneasy feeling about her.

"Who will be in charge here?"

She smiled. "You're the editor in chief of Washington Tribune Enterprises. You will be."

And he believed her. Copyright 2016 - 2024