Audio equipment millionaire Sidney Harman, who bought Newsweek magazine last year and oversaw its merger with The Daily Beast, has died in Washington. He was 92.
Harman died Tuesday night of complications from leukemia, according to a family statement. He learned of his illness about a month ago.
"He died in Washington, D.C., a city he loved and supported in so many ways, surrounded by his wife and children," the family wrote.
Harman is the founder of Harman International Industries, a stereo maker based in Washington for years. A planned 2007 sale of the company for about $8 billion was scuttled during turmoil in the credit markets.
Now Harman International, the parent company of numerous electronics brands _ such as Harman Kardon, JBL and Infinity, and GPS products _ is based in Stamford, Conn. Harman retired in 2008 but continued to serve as chairman emeritus.
His management and labor relations philosophy, engaging workers in the formation of policies, has been a case study used in business schools. It eventually helped lead to his appointment as deputy Commerce secretary under President Jimmy Carter.
On Wednesday, Carter said Harman's support was invaluable.
"He was a true champion of justice, freedom, and peace, and as a member of the Carter Center Board of Trustees for many years, his counsel helped to shape the course of many of our activities and achievements," Carter said in a statement.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said Harman was an innovator, beginning with the first home audio receiver he developed with Bernard Kardon.
"Sidney was a true industry leader who revolutionized the music industry," Shapiro said.
In the Newsweek deal, Harman paid The Washington Post Co. $1 in a bid to save the money-losing newsweekly. Three months later, Harman's negotiations helped install veteran editor Tina Brown as Newsweek's editor-in-chief to lead its merger with The Daily Beast. Harman said the merger provided an "ideal combination of established journalism authority and bright, bristling website savvy."
Harman's ownership stake in The Newsweek Daily Beast Co. will be controlled by his estate, which can appoint a replacement director to the venture's board, a company spokesman said. The joint venture is co-owned with Barry Diller's media conglomerate, IAC/InterActiveCorp.
A spokeswoman for IAC said the company's commitment to Newsweek won't change.
"We expect the business model to continue on its path," said spokeswoman Leslie Cafferty.
Still, Harman's death raises questions about Newsweek's future. When he purchased the magazine, he said he was willing to invest up to $40 million to cover operating losses.
"He was committed to trying to re-energize a great news brand," said Outsell Inc. media analyst Ken Doctor. "He did this as a philanthropic venture."
Harman would not have been able to support a money-losing magazine indefinitely, though, and was counting on Diller and Brown to help turn it around, Doctor said. His death could increase pressure to devise a path toward profitability.
In a statement, Diller said Harman's family wanted to continue as partners. Diller pledged to carry on with their plans, though Harman will be missed.
"That remarkable brain, filled with so much humor, poetry, and wisdom, was something his new colleagues at Newsweek and The Daily Beast marveled at in every encounter," Diller said.
Harman was a philanthropist, arts patron and familiar face in Washington's social scene. He rarely missed the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala. He was married to former California Rep. Jane Harman, who recently left Congress to lead the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
In 2007, Harman gave nearly $20 million to build a new home for Washington's popular Shakespeare Theatre Company. The theater with an ultramodern glass facade and dark mahogany auditorium is named in his honor as the Harman Center for the Arts.
At the time, Harman told The Associated Press he was particularly proud of the downtown location that could draw a young, diverse audience.
"We believe it critical to encourage the creation of new expressions of all of the performing arts," Harman said in a 2007 interview. If not, he said, "we're going to go culturally bankrupt."
Harman said he made the gift because he loves the arts, not because he wanted a building named after him.
"In truth, my wife pressed for it," he said of the arts center that carries his name. "I think she's thinking of it as a nice memorial."
He was active and physically fit into his 90s, friends said. He and Jane Harman led family vacations with their children and grandchildren. He is survived by his wife and six children.
They kept a home near Los Angeles where Harman's company also had an operations center. In 1998, Jane Harman ran for the Democratic nomination for California governor, and the couple paid for much of the $16 million race with their own money.
Harman was born in Montreal in 1918, moved with his family to New York and grew up in Manhattan. He made his fortune as an audio pioneer after he founded Harman Kardon Inc. in 1953.
For several years, he served as president of the Quaker-affiliated Friends World College on Long Island. He later founded a program on technology and public policy Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and held posts at the University of Southern California.
In 1977, he joined Carter's administration, selling his company to avoid a conflict of interest and buying it back after leaving the government.
Stuart Eizenstat, a longtime friend who was Carter's chief domestic policy adviser, said Harman was a "true renaissance man" who could quote lengthy sonnets from Shakespeare at dinner parties and deftly navigate the worlds of business and government.
"Sidney always had a smile on his face, was always upbeat and was really an inspiration for a whole generation of people both in government and in the private sector," Eizenstat said.
At the Commerce Department, Harman energized the agency with a pro-business ethic and stressed exports for the first time, Eizenstat said.
"He was a pro-business Democrat but with a great social conscience," Eizenstat said. "It's an enormous loss, but Sidney lived a very full and complete life."
Associated Press writers Joelle Tessler in Washington and Greg Bluestein in Atlanta contributed to this report.