UPDATE: Glossy-magazine publisher S.I. Newhouse dead at 89
By Cynthia Littleton
His Condé Nast empire includes such titles as Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Vogue, GQ and Bon Appetit
S.I. Newhouse, the Condé Nast chairman who presided over the magazine world's glossiest publications and most talked-about editors for more than 40 years, died Sunday. He was 89.
Newhouse's death was confirmed early Sunday by a family spokesman, according to a report on the website of Vogue, one of the cornerstones of the Newhouse family's publishing empire.
"Si Newhouse was the most extraordinary leader," said Anna Wintour, Condé Nast artistic director and editor-in-chief of Vogue. "Wherever he led, I followed, unquestioningly, simply because he put as much faith in me as I had in him. Si never looked at data, or statistics, but went with his instincts, and expected his editors to do the same. He urged us to take risks, and was effusive in his praise when they paid off. Every time I'd preview the latest issue of Vogue with him, he'd encourage me to go for the less expected cover, the more compelling image. Yet there was nothing showy about the way Si led. This humble, thoughtful, highly idiosyncratic man, quite possibly the least judgmental person I've ever known, preferred family, friends, art, movies and his beloved pugs over the flashiness of the New York media world. His personality shaped the entire company. It might have been a huge global media entity, yet Si, who arrived at 4 a.m. every day in an unchanging uniform, ran it like his own personal and very benevolent fiefdom. We'd regularly have lunch -- lunches which were scheduled by him six months in advance --and he'd arrive with a yellow legal pad, with maybe three words written on it. So few words, yet somehow they encapsulated so many lessons, lessons which I still strive to put into practice every day I come to work."
Even as the magazine business suffered declines in the digital age, Newhouse spent lavishly on Condé Nast's gold-plated roster of titles that include Vogue, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Wired, Architectural Digest, Details, Self, GQ and Bon Appetit. He had a knack for picking strong editors with the vision to ensure Condé Nast's publications stood out from the pack -- personalities who inevitably became celebrities in their own right. Anna Wintour, Graydon Carter, Tina Brown, David Remnick, Ruth Whitney and Diana Vreeland were among the stars in the Condé Nast orbit during Newhouse's long tenure.
By many accounts, Newhouse was soft-spoken and unimposing, a diminutive man who was prone to wearing casual clothing around the office. He shied away from the limelight, preferring to let his magazines and his editors take the bow. But he was a fixture on the New York social scene, a bon vivant who loved the influence exerted on pop culture and high society by his stable of publications. He was known for his prized extensive art collection that adorned the walls of his New York City penthouse.
In addition to overseeing Condé Nast, Newhouse served as chairman of Condé Nast parent company Advance Publications, a holding company for the Newhouse family media empire. The list includes 26 newspapers, including Newark, N.J.'s Star-Ledger, Cleveland's Plain Dealer and Portland, Ore.'s Oregonian; the Parade magazine Sunday insert; a 25% stake in Discovery Communications; and substantial cable TV holdings.