Newspaper Empire Heir Randolph Hearst Dies
Randolph Apperson Hearst, the last surviving son of the legendary newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and chairman of the family’s media empire from 1973 to 1996, died Monday in a New York hospital. He was 85.
Hearst also was editor and president of the San Francisco Examiner when his daughter Patricia was kidnapped by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. During the long ordeal, a visibly shaken Hearst regularly faced television cameras and pleaded for his daughter’s return.
A spokesman for Hearst Corp. in New York said Hearst, one of five sons of the newspaper mogul who inspired the Orson Welles film “Citizen Kane,” was checked into New York Presbyterian Hospital on Thursday and died early Monday after suffering a massive stroke.
“Randolph Hearst shared his father’s strong vision and his abiding passion for the publishing business,” Frank A. Bennack Jr., chief executive officer of Hearst Corp., said in a statement Monday. “He played a key role in the life of the company founded in 1887 by his father.”
Hearst, son of William Randolph and Millicent Wilson Hearst, was born with his twin brother, David, in New York City on Dec. 2, 1915. He attended Harvard University and rose to the rank of captain while serving in the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II.
He began his news career in 1939 as assistant to the publisher of the Atlanta Georgian. He moved to San Francisco in 1941 to work as a cub reporter covering police, courts and City Hall with the Hearst-owned Call-Bulletin in San Francisco.
The move evolved into a decades-long career helping to guide the newspaper empire that his father founded.
In 1965 Hearst became chairman of Hearst Corp., and in 1972 he became president of the flagship San Francisco Examiner.
Malcolm Glover, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who worked for Hearst at the Examiner, recalled him as an aloof man who rarely ventured into the newsroom.
“You’d see him walk through sometimes, and once in a while he’d say hello, but the joke was that the only time we ever saw him was on payday when he came to pick up his $50,000 check.”
Throughout his daughter’s kidnapping, Hearst responded to her abductors’ frequent demands.
When the group ordered that he donate millions of dollars in food to California’s poor, he headed the People in Need giveaway program, pledging $2 million. Eventually more than 90,000 packages of food were distributed.
“Randy was the center of calm in a very turbulent period,” said nephew William Randolph Hearst III.
Even after the ordeal, Hearst continued his philanthropic work. At the time of his death, he was active in numerous family-run foundations involved in funding educational, medical and cultural causes nationwide.
Raul Ramirez, now a news director for public television in San Francisco, recalled how Hearst hired him away from the Washington Post to be an Examiner reporter when the SLA was publicly attacking his family.
“I remember he pointed to his window and said, ‘There is a city out there that I didn’t know existed, and we need people like you to help me see it better,’ ” said Ramirez. “I saw him as a very concerned and troubled father.”
Eventually converted to the political cause of her captors, Patricia Hearst denounced her family, took the alias Tania and helped the SLA rob banks. She was captured in September 1975 and spent 21 months in prison on a bank robbery conviction. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence and she was released.
She later married her former bodyguard, Bernard Shaw. She has two children, and has written books and appeared in a few movies. She lives in Connecticut and is seeking a presidential pardon for her conviction.
When William Randolph Hearst died in 1951 at age 88, he did not leave any of his five sons in charge of his media empire, which instead was handed over to professional managers. Randolph and his brothers became the minority on a 13-member board of trustees.
“Deep down, I really don’t think he was a newspaper man,” Glover recalled of Randolph Hearst. “I don’t think old man Hearst had much faith in any of his boys to run the operation like he did.”
With an estimated fortune of $1.6 billion, Hearst was ranked 145th on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. He and his third wife, Veronica, lived in New York at the time of his death.
Earlier this year he bought the Vanderbilt mansion in Manalapan, Fla., for $29.87 million from Mel Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers professional basketball team.
Despite his vast wealth, friends called Hearst down-to-earth.
“He was a very bright, thoughtful, caring guy,” said William Coblentz, a lawyer and longtime friend. “He was self-effacing, devoid of prejudice, and he cared for people. He had a desire to listen . . . which a lot of people in his position do not have.”
* Associated Press contributed to this story.