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March 13: The Publishing Mogul

March 13, 2014
2009_1_602-1Walter Annenberg, who created TV Guide and Seventeen magazine and contributed some $2 billion to universities, art museums, and other cultural institutions during his lifetime, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on this date in 1908. Annenberg’s mob-connected father Moe published the Daily Racing Form and purchased the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1936 before falling into tax evasion scandals that landed him in prison for three years. Upon Moe’s death in 1942, Walter took over the family publishing business, Triangle Publications, and built it into an empire that includes radio and television stations. TV Guide, created in 1952, eventually reached 17 million homes and took in profits of $1 million per week during the 1970s. Annenberg lived a grossly lavish lifestyle, advised and hobnobbed with Republican presidents and other conservative figures, and was appointed ambassador to England by Richard Nixon. As a newspaper publisher, Annenberg operated in the mold of William Randolph Hearst, sometimes using the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News to settle scores, advance his personal business interests, and preach his right wing views. Over the years, he contributed more than $30 million to the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia, including $10 million towards the exodus of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Moses. “It’s a life that proves that you can earn polite notices in death no matter how you lived if you give away a billion dollars to the right places before you croak.” -Jack Shafer, Slate