Arthur O. Sulzberger, Former New York Times Publisher and Chief Executive, Dies at 86

8:23 AM PST 09/29/2012 by Jane Kellogg

The publisher took over the paper in 1963, leading it through several periods of expansion, until passing the reins to his son, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., in 1992.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, The New York Times publisher who moved the newspaper from a regional to a national power and created the consumer-facing sections that would profoundly alter the way major newspapers covered film, television, sports and the arts, has died after a long illness, his newspaper reports. He was 86. 

Sulzberger died at his home in Southampton, NY, according to his family. He took over the Times in 1963, following in the footsteps of his father as publisher of the paper his maternal grandfather, Adolph S. Ochs, bought in 1896. During his 34-year tenure, "Punch" Sulzberger (a nickname he carried since childhood) led the newspaper to 31 Pulitzer Prizes, through the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the assassination of a president, and the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971--a decision many historians view as his finest moment at the helm. When he came into the position, the paper was in the worst financial shape he had ever seen: 1963 was the first year the paper was in the red since 1898. In the mid-1970s, Sulzberger expanded the newspaper to four sections: SportsMonday, Science Times, Living, and Home and Weekend. The change-up, done in an effort to attract new readers, especially women, was instantly successful and has since been widely imitated by news outlets worldwide. 

Sulzberger led the family business, which has, for more than a century now, been carried through the family's men. When his father, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, stepped down as publisher after nearly three decades in 1961, Arthur Ochs was passed over for the position for his brother-in-law, Orvil Dryfoos. But Dryfoos died only two years later, at age 50, due to complications to his heart. It was then that Sulzberger, at 37, became the youngest publisher in the history of the Times when he was named to the position on June 20, 1963. 

Born in New York City to Sulzberger and Iphigene Bertha Ochs on February 5, 1926, Punch enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 17 in 1944, at the height of World War II. He served in the Philippines and Japan until 1946, and later during the Korean War, he served in Korea before being transferred to Washington. He ended his service in December 1952 as a lieutenant. Between tours, the reformed high school dropout attended Columbia University, earning a bachelor degree in English and history in 1951. 

When he was in college in 1948, Sulzberger married Barbara Grant, and the couple had two children: Arthur Jr. and Karen. The couple divorced in 1956, and a few months later Sulzberger married Carol Fox. The couple had a daughter, Cynthia, in 1964, and Sulzberger adopted Fox's daughter from a previous marriage, Cathy.

In 1992, Punch Sulzberger passed the publishing torch down the family's male bloodline, to his son, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. The younger Sulzberger and current publisher of the paper inherited a less-than-flattering nickname, "Pinch," for his unpopular cost-cutting measures (a move that many historians and journalists argue has kept the print magnate alive through today's digital revolution). In 1997, Sulzberger Sr. also passed his role of chairman of the board of the paper's parent company, The New York Times Company, to his son. 

In 1995, Carol died, and in March of the following year, Sulzberger married Allison Cowles, the widow of William H. Cowles III, another famed publisher, though of the West Coast variety. Cowles died in 2010. 

In addition to his children, Sulzberger is survived by two of his three sisters, Marian Heiskell and Ruth Holmberg, and nine grandchildren, as well as several other family members who, to this day, continue to breathe life into the family paper. 

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