Media Moves and News

Coverage: Newhouse, who turned Conde Nast into a powerhouse, dies at 89

October 2, 2017

Posted by Chris Roush

S.I. Newhouse Jr.
S.I. Newhouse Jr.

S. I. Newhouse Jr., who as the owner of The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest and other magazines wielded vast influence over American culture, fashion and social taste, died on Sunday at the age of 89. Newhouse was also chairman of Advance Publications, which owns American City Business Journals.

Jonathan Kandell of The New York Times had the news:

Much of that glamour was created under Si Newhouse’s direction. Though he was a shy man and often painfully awkward in public, Mr. Newhouse hired some of the most charismatic magazine editors of the late 20th century, among them Tina Brown and Graydon Carter at Vanity Fair and Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour at Vogue, and encouraged them to behave like the celebrities they extolled in his publications.

It helped that he rewarded them with salaries, expense accounts, clothing allowances and housing loans that were the envy of their peers. Newhouse editors also enjoyed spectacularly generous budgets at their magazines, which often ran deep in the red for years before turning profits.

“I am not an editor,” Mr. Newhouse told The New York Times in 1989. “I flounder when people ask me, ‘What would you do?’ ” His philosophy, he said, was to let his editors run free. “We feel almost that whichever way it goes, as long as it doesn’t do something absolutely screwy, you can build a magazine around the direction an editor takes.”

Nathaniel Meyersohn of CNNMoney reported that Newhouse dropped out of college to work for his father:

Newhouse, with his brother Donald, owned Advance Publications, which publishes Condé Nast titles and group of newspaper chains around the country. It’s a major stakeholder in Discovery Communications, cable operator Charter Communications and Reddit. The company was founded in Staten Island by their father, a Russian immigrant, in 1922.

Newhouse was born in New York City in 1927 and attended Syracuse University before dropping out to work for his father at Advance.

He began working at Condé in 1961, two years after his father purchased the magazine. In 1975, Newhouse was appointed Condé’s chairman, a position he held for 40 years. He retired as chairman emeritus in 2015.

Newhouse was listed as No. 100 on Bloomberg’s list of billionaires, which reports his worth at $12.7 billion.

Cynthia Littleton of Variety reported that Newhouse shied away from the limelight:

By many accounts, Newhouse was soft-spoken and unimposing, a diminutive man who was prone to wearing casual clothing around the office. He shied away from the limelight, preferring to let his magazines and his editors take the bow. But he was a fixture on the New York social scene, a bon vivant who loved the influence exerted on pop culture and high society by his stable of publications. He was known for his prized extensive art collection that adorned the walls of his New York City penthouse.

“Si Newhouse wasn’t incidentally in the magazine business,” said Remnick. “He loved magazines, he loved everything about them––from the conception of new publications to the beauty and rigor of the latest issue––and that passion, that commitment to excellence, free expression, and imagination radiated in every direction.”

In addition to overseeing Conde Nast, Newhouse served as chairman of Conde Nast parent company Advance Publications, a holding company for the Newhouse family media empire. The list includes 26 newspapers, including Newark, N.J.’s Star-Ledger, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer and Portland, Ore.’s Oregonian; the Parade magazine Sunday insert; a 25% stake in Discovery Communications; and substantial cable TV holdings.

In March 2015 Advance reached a deal with Charter Communications to sell Bright House Networks, the nation’s sixth-largest cable operator with 2.2 million subscribers, for $10.4 billion as part of Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal brought the Newhouse clan about $2 billion in cash and a 13%-14% stake in the enlarged Charter Communications.

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