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THE BOTTOM LINE

A Reporter's Report

April 08, 1986|Bill Ritter

San Diego Gas & Electric's 1985 annual report has a decidedly journalistic bent. Each of the report's six narrative sections is explained with a Who, What, Where, Why, When and How--the basic reporting formula.

Considering the author, the newspaper flavor isn't surprising. Lynn Taylor, SDG&E's financial communications administrator, is a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune. The reporting theme, she said, was chosen as a simple way to explain the utility's complicated restructuring last year, as it prepares to form a holding company to venture into non-regulated enterprises.

"We needed a new way to divide the material to help the shareholder," said Taylor.

Nowhere does there appear an explanation that the five "W's" and "H" are tied to journalism.

"I don't think they necessarily thought it was newspaper lingo," said Taylor, adding that responses from shareholders about the report's format has been positive.

Meanwhile, SDG&E is garnering attention from national media.

Mike Niggli, SDG&E's director of fuel & power contracts, has been interviewed more than 50 times in the past two months by countless magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Time magazine, as well as by CNN.

Interest increased in the wake of falling oil prices and SDG&E's efforts to change its supplies, said Niggli. In addition, a Wall Street Journal item suggesting the utility would benefit from downward oil prices also sparked interest.

These interviews are relatively easy compared to the ones Niggli, a 15-year SDG&E veteran, was doing during the 1970s, when he had to explain the utility's horrendous performance.

Lawyers, Lawyers Everywhere

The tight legal fraternity has once again shown itself, as two judges have bowed out of civil litigation in the never-ending J. David & Co. saga.

Last week, San Diego Superior Court Judge Ben W. Hamrick disqualified himself from presiding over proceedings involving about 360 investor lawsuits because of personal relationships with one of the attorneys representing the investors and the chairman of the bank being sued by that lawyer.

Hamrick said he had a "longstanding" friendship with Malin Burnham, chairman of First National Bank of San Diego, which is being sued by former J. David investors for allegedly allowing unauthorized transfers of J. David funds between various accounts. Hamrick and Burnham regularly play handball.

Hamrick also is a friend--and occasional golfing buddy--of attorney Pat McCormick, who represents the former investors suing First National.

Yet another connection is Hamrick's daughter, who--and follow closely--works for a court reporting firm owned by the wife of an attorney who is representing a defendant in the J. David investor suits.

Hamrick became concerned about the conflicts after he read newspaper accounts of U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving disqualifying himself from hearing a federal civil suit against First National.

Irving is a partner with attorney McCormick in a Hillcrest real estate partnership and is a personal friend of First National's outside attorney, Alex Cory.

In addition, Irving's son, Craig, works for John Burnham & Co., which is owned by First National Chairman Burnham.

No Place Like Home

Home Federal Savings & Loan, now advertising itself as Home Fed, still has its name on its 18-story Home Tower downtown, despite a lease agreement with Los Angeles-based Great Western Savings.

Not to worry, offer officials of both Home Federal and Great Western.

Come June, the Great Western logo will appear on the Tower as Great Western completes its leasing of the 14th floor and the lobby.

Home Federal executives, meanwhile, have moved from the fifth floor of the Tower to higher ground--the 14th floor of the adjacent Home Federal building.

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