Media titan Samuel ‘Si’ Newhouse is dead at 89

  • FILE - This undated photo shows billionaire media mogul Samuel I. Newhouse Jr., who died at his New York home on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. He was 89. (AP Photo, File) MIKE ALBANS

  • Shown in 2011, Conde Nast chairman Si Newhouse Jr. became a billionaire media mogul who helped guide some of the most influential magazines of his era. AP file

  • FILE - In this Aug. 31, 1979 file photo, Samuel I. Newhouse Jr., appears in New York after attending services for his father, publisher Samuel I. Newhouse in New York. Newhouse Jr died at his New York home on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. He was 89. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File) Marty Lederhandler

Associated Press
Sunday, October 01, 2017

S.I. Newhouse Jr., the low-profile billionaire media mogul who ran the parent company of some of the nation’s most prestigious magazines, died Sunday. He was 89.

Newhouse’s death was confirmed by his family, who said he died at his New York home.

The chairman of Conde Nast since 1975, Si Newhouse, as he was known, bought and remade The New Yorker and Details magazines and revived Vanity Fair. Other magazines in the Conde Nast stable included Vogue, Wired, Glamour, W, GQ and Self.

“Si Newhouse really loved quality content,” said his nephew Steven Newhouse, who is the chairman of Advance Publications. “He was passionate about journalism and he supported journalists and editors and he set an example of caring about the right things in media, which is great stories, great design, great magazines, great websites.”

Before selling the Random House book publishing empire, he spotted a magazine profile about a rising young real estate mogul and was inspired to commission the first book of a future president, Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal.

Newhouse brought in buzz-obsessed Britons Anna Wintour and Tina Brown as editors, who became celebrities in their own right, while abruptly firing staffers who fell from his graces. Grace Mirabella learned she was being axed as editor-in-chief of Vogue in June 1988 when her husband saw it on TV.

Conde Nast under Newhouse was famously extravagant, paying editors huge salaries, throwing lavish parties and rarely sticking to budgets – if budgets existed at all. Its expense accounts were legendary, with dresses flown from Paris to New York on the Concorde and elephants brought in to menace models at fashion shoots.

“There’s no place on Earth like this,” Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter told New York magazine in 2009. “There’s no place where you’re given the resources you need to do what you want to do and also given complete freedom to do it.”

Conde Nast focused on glossy titles that helped set the nation’s tastes, reached millions of aspirational readers and appealed to upscale advertisers.

“Our magazines represent a certain tone and audience,” Newhouse told the New York Times in a rare interview in 1988.

He said the company his father bought in 1959 for $5 million was following in the tradition of its founder, Conde Montrose Nast.

“It was that initial orientation of Conde Nast,” Newhouse said. “He invented the form of the specialized magazine. He didn’t want a large audience. He wanted one in which everyone counted.”

But the company has struggled in recent years with the advertising meltdown. Since 2007 it has closed Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, House & Garden, Jane, Men’s Vogue, Portfolio, Domino and Golf for Women. The ambitious business magazine Portfolio shuttered in April 2009 just two years after its launch, burning through an estimated $100 million.

Forbes said in March 2009 that the downturn had sliced Newhouse’s fortune in half, but his estimated net worth of $4 billion still left him the world’s 132nd-richest man.