Sidney Harman, the stereo magnate-turned-Newsweek owner, died last night at age 92. According to a statement from the family on the Daily Beast (which merged with Newsweek late last year), he died from "complications from acute myeloid leukemia at the young age of almost 93. 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 continues, "He died in Washington, D.C., a city he loved and supported in so many ways, surrounded by his wife and children. Funeral arrangements will be private. Celebrations of Sidney's extraordinary life will be held both in Washington and Los Angeles, at dates still to be determined."
The Wall Street Journal's obituary notes, "Mr. Harman made his fortune founding Harman Kardon Inc., where he pioneered new technologies in stereo equipment. He left his company, now called Harman International Industries, in 2007, and had been spending much of his time teaching at the University of Southern California where he was a professor of polymathic study. Mr. Harman's wife, Jane Harman, was a Democratic congresswoman for the 36th district in California."
Last year, Harman agreed to buy Newsweek for $1—and keep many employees and assume debts—from the Washington Post company. He convinced Tina Brown to come edit the struggling news weekly (and possibly still struggling), in a deal that brought website The Daily Beast, owned by media mogul Barry Diller, into the fold. He told WSJ last year, "Despite my years, I bring energy and a fresh approach. And I'm an experienced and knowledgeable businessman. I have a fundamental respect for the role of journalism and I think it has done no harm when you bring discipline to it."
There's an appreciation of Harman by (now former) Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter:
I was intrigued by Sidney’s ideas and, like so many who encountered him, soon enough impressed at his charm and astonishing vigor. He strode quickly into a room, tanned and fit, offered a firm mogul handshake like a man decades younger. With a near-photographic memory, he dazzled dinner parties and meetings of editors by reciting long passages from Shakespeare, Tennyson and long-forgotten essayists, all of which had some genuine wisdom to impart. He saved Newsweek, hired Tina Brown as editor and told me just last week that the magazine was on track to break even. When he died April 12 after a brief battle with leukemia, it came as a shock. He was 92 and expected to live past 100. We all believed him.
"He was a magical man, full of intellectual curiosity and a desire to see Newsweek reflect the pursuit of ideas," said Tina Brown, who learned of his passing in Washington last night, where she had hoped to see him this 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."
Incidentally, his son has been interning at Newsweek.