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Wednesday, October 10, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Stephen Dunphy / Times staff columnist

The Newsletter: A big financial sacrifice for Hutch's Nobel winner

An interesting financial sidelight to Lee Hartwell's sharing in the Nobel Prize for medicine. As a winner of the prestigious award Hartwell shares the prize's $943,000 award with two other winners.

Back in 1997 when Hartwell was named president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Hartwell gave his stock in Rosetta Inpharmatics, a biotech company he helped found, to the center to avoid any appearance of the kind of conflict later reported in this newspaper.

Rosetta was sold to Merck, a huge pharmaceutical company, earlier this year for the equivalent of $18 a share. If Hartwell had held onto his founder's share in Rosetta, 283,200 shares, he would have had stock worth $5.1 million when Rosetta was acquired.

If he had held the Merck shares, they would be worth about $4.5 million today. Hartwell made a significant personal financial sacrifice on behalf of the Hutch — and the integrity of entrepreneurial human-medical experimentation — that he's never gotten credit for.

Washington Mutual gets all the headlines and rightly so, now ranking as one of the largest financial institutions in the country. But pay attention to the "other Washington" in town, Washington Federal.

The New York Times yesterday had an article on savings and loans. They benefit from lower short-term interest rates because it lowers the cost of holding deposits while the spread on adjustable-rate mortgages improves. There are some dangers, of course, if rates go too low or if the economy weakens.

But what caught the eye of analysts at McAdams Wright Ragen, Seattle-based brokerage, was Washington Federal's comparisons. Many good companies have capital ratios — equity as a percentage of assets — of 6 to 7. Washington Federal is around 12. Another S&L was cited because its expenses are less than 1 percent of assets, compared with 2 percent for a typical S&L. Washington Federal's is 0.72.

Spokane could see another spurt of new companies coming to town, perhaps even by the end of the year.

Mark Turner, head of the Spokane Economic Development Council, said the group has set a goal of bringing 1,400 new jobs to the area this year. The count so far is 504, but Turner says the group hopes hope to make its goal, meaning several big decisions with more than 800 jobs involved still could happen.

Turner said everything stopped for a few weeks after the terrorist attack, but "good projects were still good projects." Some companies now seem ready to make a decision on a Spokane location.

The Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle continues its trade mission to eastern and central Europe. The alliance likes to promise great access to a market's leadership on its trade missions and this trip is certainly no exception. One of the delegates on the mission, Stephen Spoonamore, CEO of Creative Production Resources, was on a special tour in Warsaw when his guide said she wanted to introduce him to someone.

Turns out he was introduced to the president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski. Now that's access.

The delegation is in Poland at an interesting time. The Democratic Left Alliance and Polish Peasants Party agreed yesterday to form a coalition government after the Sept. 23 elections in which the Democratic Left Alliance won 41 percent of the vote and the old Solidarity party lost all seats in Parliament.

The tech slump is hitting the Silicon valley hard. The median price of houses sold in Santa Clara County dropped 4.2 percent to $455,000 in August compared with the year before, one of the steepest year-over-year declines thus far in 2001. The August figures for single-family resale homes reflect how the real-estate market has cooled along with the economy, but the data precedes the events of Sept. 11.

To send items, write to The Newsletter, Stephen H. Dunphy, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. Phone: 206-464-2365. Fax: 206-382-8879. E-mail: sdunphy@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

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