TV Guide founder dies at 94
Annenberg's communications empire also included TV and radio stations, newspapers
By P. Llanor Alleyne -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/6/2002 8:00:00 PM
Walter H. Annenberg, head of a vast communications empire that once included TV Guide, died of pneumonia on Oct. 1 at his home in Wynnewood, Pa. He was 94.
Recently listed in Forbes magazine as the 39th-wealthiest person in the country, with a net worth of $4 billion, Annenberg, who was ambassador to Great Britain in the Nixon Administration, was often generous with the vast wealth he accumulated as head of Triangle Publications Inc., which at one point comprised Seventeen magazine, several newspapers, and six television and radio stations in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and California (including WFIL(AM) and -FM Philadelphia).
Annenberg's television holdings were the impetus for TV Guide, which was founded in 1953 and, by the 1970s, had reached a circulation of more than 17 million.
In recent years, Annenberg focused most of his energies to philanthropic activities, bestowing huge grants on several educational institutions, including Harvard University and his prep-school alma mater, The Peddie School.
Most notably, he pledged $60 million in 1991to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to support mathematics and science programming for kindergarten through 12th grade.
"The American people lost a great man today," said CPB President and CEO Robert T. Coonrod. "Walter Annenberg sought to provide all Americans with valuable free educational opportunities. His generosity to his country knew no bounds."
In 1958, the Annenbergs donated $3 million to the University of Pennsylvania to establish the Annenberg School of Communications. He repeated the action in 1971, when he funded another communications department that carries his name, at the University of Southern California.
Aside from phenomenal success as a businessman, Annenberg was politically active. In 1969, President Nixon, a close friend, appointed him Ambassador to Britain, which did not sit well with several Washington heads who felt he had bought the appointment.
He was also a noted art collector and pledged his accumulation of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1991.
He sold his broadcast properties in the early '70s. In 1988, he sold the remaining Triangle properties to Rupert Murdoch for more than $3 billion.
Annenberg's father, Moses, was already venturing into media by the time Walter was born in 1908 and added New York's Daily Racing Form to his cache in the 1920s.
In 1939, Moses was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion and died two years later from a brain tumor. Walter dedicated the rest of his life to honoring his father's memory.
Annenberg is survived by his wife, Lenore; two daughters; two stepdaughters; two sisters; and seven grandchildren.
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