Newsweek Co-Owner Sidney Harman Dies at 92

Harman Family's Commitment to Newsweek Will Continue, Says Editor Tina Brown

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Sidney Harman
Sidney Harman

Sidney Harman, the audio magnate who bought Newsweek magazine six months ago in an effort to save it, died on Tuesday. He was 92.

The Harman family's commitment to the magazine and The Daily Beast, with which he formed a merger, continues. "Dr. Harman's ownership stake in The Newsweek Daily Beast Company remains owned by his estate," said Andrew Kirk, a spokesman for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. "His estate will have the ability to appoint a replacement director to the board of the venture to represent its interest."

Mr. Harman died Tuesday night of complications from acute myeloid leukemia, according to a statement from his family on The Daily Beast. "He first learned of his illness one month ago and remained vigorously engaged as executive chairman of Newsweek, and Chairman of the Academy for Polymathic Study at the University of Southern California," the statement said. "He died in Washington, D.C., a city he loved and supported in so many ways, surrounded by his wife and children."

Mr. Harman wanted Newsweek to "reflect the pursuit of ideas," Newsweek and Daily Beast editor Tina Brown told Jonathan Alter, who recently exited Newsweek but wrote about Mr. Harman's life in a post on The Daily Beast on Wednesday morning. "We very quickly formed both a great editorial relationship and a warm personal friendship. I shall miss him tremendously. The family's commitment to the magazine he loved so much is solidly continuing, in partnership with Barry Diller and IAC."

Mr. Diller, chairman of IAC, said he was privileged to know Mr. Harman in the last year of his life, according to Mr. Alter. "That remarkable brain, filled with so much humor, poetry and wisdom, was something his new colleagues at Newsweek and The Daily Beast marveled at in every encounter," he told Mr. Alter. "Three weeks ago, when he told me of his illness, he said he and his family wanted to continue as partners in Newsweek/Beast in all events."

Mr. Harman agreed to acquire Newsweek, which lost almost $30 million in 2009, from the Washington Post Company last August and completed the deal on Sept. 30. "In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism," Post Co. Chairman-CEO Donald Graham said then in a statement announcing the deal. "We found that person in Sidney Harman. He has pledged not only to continue to produce a lively, compelling and first-rate news magazine, but also an equally dynamic -- and he intends to keep a majority of Newsweek's very talented staff."

Mr. Harman said many times that he did not buy Newsweek to make money. "I did not and do not think of this in traditional business terms," he told the magazine the day the deal was announced. "The purpose of the investment is to provide fuel for the transition of the magazine in its current position into a thriving operation in the print, mobile and digital worlds."

"I'll consider it a victory when it breaks even," he added. "Breaking even is a big deal."

Subsequent negotiations to merge the magazine with The Daily Beast and a bid to secure Tina Brown as Newsweek's new editor rose and fell before rising again and succeeding on Nov. 12, 2010.

"Today, we look at print from the refreshed point of view of an expatriate who sees the old country with new eyes," Ms. Brown said in a post on The Daily Beast describing the merger. "That will create a great new creative energy -- just as on the business side, it offers a superb dual marketing platform."

The Newsweek Daily Beast Co., a 50-50 joint venture between Mr. Harman and IAC, was structured to have four directors: Mr. Harman, as executive chairman; Mr. Diller; and two more, one from each side. Stephen Colvin, president of the Daily Beast, was named CEO of the Newsweek Daily Beast Co.

When Mr. Alter, the longtime Newsweek columnist, said Monday that he was leaving the magazine, he also said he thought the new owner and Ms. Brown were moving in the right direction. "I wanted to make sure that Newsweek was going to be in good hands, because I care deeply about the magazine, so I spent a lot of time over the past nine months trying to make sure that happened," he told Yahoo's Cutline blog. "I had a great 28 years there. I think the magazine is in very good hands with Sidney Harman and Tina Brown."

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