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Originally published May 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Page modified May 4, 2011 at 1:38 PM

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Fisher's biggest shareholder will vote against management

The largest shareholder of Fisher Communications will throw its weight behind three dissident candidates for the company's board in next...

By Seattle Times business staff

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The largest shareholder of Fisher Communications will throw its weight behind three dissident candidates for the company's board in next week's election.

Funds controlled by investor Mario Gabelli, which own 28.5 percent of Fisher shares, will exercise their cumulative voting rights in favor of three of the four nominees proposed by hedge fund FrontFour Capital. The dissident group already has one seat on the nine-member board, held by FrontFour founder David Lorber.

The cumulative voting system means that, with four seats at stake in the Fisher election, the owner of 100 shares, for example, has a total of 400 votes to allocate to as many candidates as desired.

FrontFour is highly critical of how CEO Colleen Brown has run Seattle-based Fisher, which owns KOMO-TV, Portland's KATU-TV, more than a dozen smaller broadcast properties, and the high-tech Fisher Plaza data center and office complex on Denny Way.

Gabelli has also repeatedly voiced criticisms of Fisher management in recent years, even as he increased his ownership stake,

Lorber, who controls about 2 percent of Fisher stock, has said he favors "a robust and impartial auction process" to sell Fisher's assets to the highest bidder.

That could spell the end of a 100-year-old Seattle public company.

Gabelli's plans were disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday, a day after two proxy advisory firms recommended that shareholders vote in favor of the management slate.

Gabelli's filing said the shares he controls will be voted in favor of John F. Powers, Joseph J. Troy, and Matthew Goldfarb. The fourth dissident candidate is Stephen Loukas, a managing partner at FrontFour.

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