S.I. Newhouse Jr., Chairman of Conde Nast, dies at 89
Samuel Irving 'Si' Newhouse Jr., who led Condé Nast and was an architect of one of the most glamorous and influential eras in publishing, died Sunday at 89. Through Condé Nast titles like Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and GQ, Newhouse helped to shape global style, politics, and intellectual life.
“All of us at Hearst send our deepest condolences to the Newhouse family,” says Steven R. Swartz, president and CEO of Hearst, which publishes Esquire. "Si Newhouse was a media industry giant who leaves a legacy of profound influence on our culture through the excellence of the journalism he so skilfully orchestrated.”
The Newhouse family entered publishing in 1922 with the inauspicious purchase of a failing newspaper, as The New York Times put it: The Staten Island Advance. Before long, the Newhouse's holdings swelled to dozens of newspapers. Under the name Advance Publications, it became one of the largest publishers in America.
In 1959, Sam Newhouse Sr. bought Condé Nast for US$5 million. Newhouse liked to say, according to the Chicago Tribune, that it was a 35th wedding anniversary gift for his wife, Mitzi, who loved Vogue. At the time, Condé Nast owned not only Vogue, but also Glamour, House & Garden, and Young Brides. Si Newhouse took a keen interest in the magazines, while his younger brother, Donald, oversaw the newspaper and cable TV divisions.
The chairman of Condé Nast since 1975, Si Newhouse acquired GQ, Gourmet, The New Yorker and Details magazines as well as book publisher Random House; he introduced Self, bought Diner Club's travel magazine, Signature, and turned it into Condé Nast Traveler, started the glossy business publication Portfolio, and revived Vanity Fair, which had stopped publishing in 1936.
Si Newhouse cultivated star editors like Anna Wintour, Graydon Carter, Tina Brown, and David Remnick, who became household names. He encouraged them to become celebrities in their own right. “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," he told the Times in 1989.
Under Newhouse, Condé Nast 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.
"He was passionate about journalism, and he supported journalists and editors," his nephew, Steven Newhouse, who is the chairman of Advance Publications Inc., which owns Conde Nast, told The Associated Press.
Newhouse's vision extended beyond magazines. Before selling the Random House book publishing empire, he spotted a magazine profile about a rising young real estate mogul and commissioned the first book of a future president: Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal.
The consummate workaholic, Newhouse was known for starting his workdays pre-dawn and reading each issue of his more than a dozen magazines. "He was a skilled and committed competitor and more than that he was a genuine force for quality publishing,” said Frank A. Bennack Jr., former Hearst CEO.
While creating a glamorous celebrity sheen for his publications, Newhouse did not court personal fame. Outside of his professional endeavours at Condé Nast, he was known as an art lover, working with celebrated dealer Larry Gagosian to amass one of the country’s greatest collections of modern art. Newhouse is survived by his wife, Victoria, brother Donald, two children, and five grandchildren.
"Si personally touched so many executives, editors, writers, and other creative professionals,” says Hearst Magazines President David Carey. "We are all grateful for his immense contributions to our business, and mourn his passing.”
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