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Splitting the sheets at Willamette Week

Paper's editor and publisher divorce the business manager

Even at Willamette Week, Portland's sometimes racy alternative newspaper, they've discovered that a mŽnage ˆ trois doesn't work.

Russ Martineau, who until two weeks ago was part-owner and business manager for the weekly, has been forced out by his two former partners, Editor Mark Zusman and Publisher Richard Meeker.

'I'd characterize it as Zusman, Meeker and Martineau get a divorce,' Martineau explains.

It's uncertain if Martineau, who owns 5 percent of the company and options on an additional 5 percent, will remain as a shareholder in City of Roses Publishing. Lawyers currently are sorting out the ownership, Martineau said. Zusman and Meeker may buy out his shares, he said.

The change was effective two weeks ago, and Martineau's name was removed from the paper's masthead this week.

'It was their decision,' Martineau says. 'Basically, we disagreed on some things. I have mixed emotions. The reality is, things changed and people moved on. They'll do just fine, and I'll do just fine.'

However, neither Martineau nor the other principals seemed inclined to discuss the exact nature of the differences that led to their split.

Meeker said it was a personnel matter he could not discuss. 'It doesn't involve poor performance or sales,' he said. 'He will remain a shareholder for now. I don't know what the future will bring.'

Meeker said the departure of Martineau was not tied to antitrust charges made by its competitor, the Portland Mercury.

The Mercury filed a complaint a month ago with the state attorney general's office claiming that Willamette Week was offering advertisers a discount on ads if they would agree not to advertise in the Mercury. Meeker said it was an 'isolated incident' by an overzealous ad representative.

Martineau joined Willamette Week as a sales manager 10 years ago and became a partner in the company in 1997.