Arthur Sulzberger, Former Times Publisher, Dies at 86

Sulzberger took over as the newspaper's publisher in 1963

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012  |  Updated 12:24 PM EDT
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Arthur Sulzberger, Former Times Publisher, Dies at 86

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Arthur Ochs Sulzberger

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Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, former publisher of The New York Times, died at his home in Southampton Saturday. He was 86.

His death, after a long illness, was announced by his family, the Times reports.

Sulzberger took over as the newspaper's publisher in 1963. He was the only grandson of Adolph S. Ochs, the son of Bavarian immigrants who took over the Times in 1896 and built it into the nation's most influential newspaper. The family retains a controlling interest to this day, holding a separate block of Class B shares that have more powerful voting rights than the company's publicly traded shares.

As publisher and chairman, Sulzberger guided the paper through a long period of growth, transforming the company into a multibillion dollar media enterprise. The Times' weekday circulation climbed from 714,000 when Sulzberger became publisher in 1963 to 1.1 million upon his retirement as publisher in 1992. Over the same period, the annual revenues of the Times' corporate parent rose from $100 million to $1.7 billion.

During his three-decade-long tenure, the newspaper won 31 Pulitzer prizes and significant free-press and free-speech precedents were established, most notably the Times vs. Sullivan case. It resulted in a landmark 1964 Supreme Court ruling that shielded the press from libel lawsuits by public officials unless they could prove actual malice.

In 1971 the Times led the First Amendment fight to keep the government from suppressing the Pentagon Papers, a series of classified reports on the Vietnam War. Asked by a reporter who at the Times made the decision to publish the papers, Sulzberger gestured toward his chest and silently mouthed, "me.''

He passed on the position of publisher to his son in 1992 and chairman in 1997.

“Adolph Ochs is remembered as the one who founded this great enterprise,” Richard L. Gelb, a longtime member of the Times board, said in 1997, when Mr. Sulzberger stepped down as chairman, the Times said. “Arthur Ochs Sulzberger will be remembered as the one who secured it, renewed it and lifted it to ever-higher levels of achievement.”

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