Arthur Sulzberger Jr. saw the New York Times face death, and managed to bring it back to life thanks to a new medium and a President unfit for office.
After 42 years at the helm of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is retiring. Without a doubt, Sulzberger was one of the most influential figures in journalism in recent decades. Sulzberger became the publisher of The New York Times in 1992, and chairman of The New York Times Company in 1997, succeeding his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. On December 14, 2017, he announced he would be ceding the post of publisher to his son, A. G. Sulzberger, before giving up the chairmanship, as well. A family affair, ownership goes back all the way to Adolph Simon Ochs (March 12, 1858 – April 8, 1935) who owned both The New York Times and The Chattanooga Times.
For what it’s worth, most of the iconic media storyteller/entrepreneurs were (at least) second generation builders. Very few built their media empires from scratch. What’s interesting is Sulzberger Jr. saw the Gray Lady on the brink of insolvency, only to bring it back to arguably its best shape ever, thanks to the growth in paid subscription and president Trump being the most controversial and unconventional of leaders.
Knowing me, I’ll immerse myself in Sulzberger’s legacy and tenure. Here are some of the other notable leaders in the industry, with one thing I personally took away from each.
- William Randolph Hearst – video review of The Chief on ContextTV.
After borrowing $10 million from his mother, the son of a politician, Hearst wasn’t involved in day-to-day affairs of his paper. He would, however, reserve the right to walk in any of his newsrooms and discuss any matter, to ensure the product met his ideals and standards.
- Henry Luce – Time Inc. – video review of The Publisher on ContextTV.
Ah, Mr. Luce. Arguably the reason I didn’t sell, re-invested in the business like crazy (and nearly went crazy) only to see WatchMojo expand into a new era of growth.
- Rupert Murdoch – News Corp.
Agree or disagree with his politics, Murdoch was rarely the first to focus on an opportunity, but once he was moved by something, he moved fast. His acquisitions of MySpace and IGN gave him overnight reach online; the always elusive Wall Street Journal was no match once he knew it was available. Also, fun fact: Murdoch sued me, I beat him. The odds he was even aware of the meritless lawsuit are nil, but the fact remains… who can say they beat Murdoch in business (Ha!)
- Sumner Redstone – Viacom – The origins and paradox of Content is King.
- Hugh Hefner – Playboy
Honest Hugh! Hef asked a $5/week raise from Esquire, he was turned down. He stayed back in Chicago when Esquire moved east to NYC and the rest is history.
A few more?
- Joseph Pulitzer‘s rivalry with Hearst was the stuff of legends.
- Walt Disney couldn’t get anyone to entrust his creativity and judgment, so he had to bet on himself.
- Conrad Black, for, well, mastering the art of not giving a you-know-what.
Who am I missing amongst the builders in media, news and entertainment? What are the best books or articles on Sulzberger?