Published April 13, 2011
WASHINGTON -- 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 posted on The Daily Beast website. 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, which was based in Washington for years before it was sold in 2007 for about $8 billion. Now, the parent company of numerous electronics brands is based in Stamford, Conn.
In the Newsweek deal, Harman paid The Washington Post Co. $1 for the money-losing newsweekly, and the Post Co. agreed to cover up to $10 million of the magazine's debt.
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 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 faEcade 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."
Harman was born in Montreal in 1918 and moved with his family to New York. He made his fortune in the 1950s as an audio pioneer.
In 1977, he joined President Jimmy Carter's administration as deputy secretary in the Commerce Department.