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Monday, November 27, 2006

Si Newhouse: Glitter, Power and Glory

To get what - and who - he wanted, Si, unlike his father, was willing to spend money.

For $3.68+ shipping you can buy "Newhouse: All the Glitter, Power, & Glory of America's Richest Media Empire & the Secretive Man Behind It", (1994) by Thomas Maier, at

Excerpts from the Publishers' Weekly review:

Samuel I. Newhouse Jr., generally known as Si, is not only one of the richest men in the U.S., he also heads its most powerful media company, Advance Publications, which owns a chain of high-visibility magazines, newspapers and cable-TV interests. He is also, by his own choice, little known to the public, so a book about him, his personality, interests and remarkable influence is very much in order. Maier, a New York Newsday reporter, labored mightily to penetrate the veil Newhouse has established between himself and the world, and has come up with as thorough an account as an outsider probably could write of the Newhouse career: his early uncertainties in the shadow of a dynamic and demanding father, his growing skills in managing the magazine empire that never much interested Sam senior, his eventual triumphs in acquiring the kinds of properties his father would have delighted in. It is all here-the victorious struggles with the IRS over taxes, the ups and downs at Vogue, the relaunch of Vanity Fair, the New Yorker troubles and eventual triumph, the reshaping of Random House from a largely literary house to a mega-publisher.

Excerpts from a book review in Washington Monthly, Jan-Feb 1995:

Aspiring to be masters of the media universe, the Newhouses gained a reputation as masters of the bottom line, so ruthless in their pursuit of newspaper profits that they left a trail of fear and havoc in their wake.

Working behind the scenes was the notorious Roy Cohn, Si's best childhood friend. Cohn, who bore the title of special counsel to the family and served as a political fixer, influenced various editorial policies. In the early sixties, JFK, over the strong objections of Bobby Kennedy, used Cohn to plant a favorable editorial about Congressman Hale Boggs, who was in political trouble, in his hometown paper, the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Cohn sought no quid pro quo, but hoped his intervention would help get Bobby, who as attorney general was looking into Cohn's sundry dealings, off his back. To Cohn's dismay, Bobby persevered.

Through another Newhouse property, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cohn, along with the mob, helped ensure Jackie Presser's election as president of the Teamsters Union.

And when Si Newhouse wanted Norman Mailer to sign with Random House, it was Cohn who convinced the famous author to make a deal, even though Cohn and Mailer were from bitterly opposed political camps. Big bucks brought them together. To get what--and who--he wanted, Si, unlike his father, was willing to spend money. (Star editors enjoy hefty clothing allowances and subsidized housing.) Through a mutual friend, Cohn convinced the literary lion to write for Parade and, ultimately, to leave his longtime publisher for a $4 million contract with Random House. This well-publicized coup gave Newhouse the cerebral clout he was after.

Part 5 in a series: "Getting to know The Oregonian's owners"

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