Nielsen president, CEO Bob Krakoff dies


Robert Krakoff, president and CEO of Nielsen Business Media and a longtime figure in the publishing industry, died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Boston. He was 71.

Well known in both the investment community and the world of newspapers, magazines and expositions, Krakoff had led Nielsen Business Media since August, when he was brought in to run what was then known as VNU Business Media, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and AdWeek, among other publications, Web sites, conferences and expositions.

Krakoff was brought out of his second retirement to join the company as part of a new management team installed after the $9 billion private-equity buyout of VNU Inc. in July. The firm was renamed Nielsen Co. in January, and Krakoff worked closely with Nielsen chairman and CEO David Calhoun to transform Nielsen into the premier global purveyor of authoritative data and marketing information services. Those who knew the executive say he made significant progress during his brief tenure.

"Bob was a consummate professional, a valued adviser and a wonderful friend," Calhoun said. "Since joining Nielsen late last year, Bob has made a strong impact on our organization, both personally and professionally."

Added John Kilcullen, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter and senior vp of Nielsen's Music, Literary, Film and Performing Arts Group: "We are fortunate to have had Bob jump-start dozens of growth initiatives and bring on so many talented leaders and strategic partners. We are going to honor his vision and legacy by continuing to innovate and compete aggressively. We know Bob would have it no other way."

Krakoff's energy and enthusiasm were legend among co-workers at Nielsen's New York headquarters and throughout the company. He was a larger than life presence, with a quick wit, an agile mind and a dapper style.

From 2004-06, Krakoff was chairman and CEO of Blantyre Partners Inc., a strategic management and investment company. Blantyre, in association with the Blackstone Group, reviewed opportunities to make investments in business-to-business media companies, and the two companies were among the six partners that purchased VNU.

From 1996-2004, Krakoff was chairman and CEO of Advanstar Inc., which through its communications subsidiaries publishes specialized business magazines, professional journals and directories; produces and manages expositions and conferences throughout the world; and markets database and direct marketing products.

He became executive chairman of Advanstar on Jan. 1, 2004, and retired from the company six months later.

Before joining Advanstar, Krakoff chose to take early retirement from his 23-year career at Reed Elsevier Plc., a large international publisher and information provider. At the time of his retirement, he was vice chairman of Reed Elsevier Inc., a director of Reed Elsevier Plc. and chairman and CEO of Cahners Publishing Co. During his tenure at Reed, he also held the position of CEO of Reed Exhibitions and Reed Reference Publishing.

"Bob was a dear friend whose energy and enthusiasm for friends, family and his business knew no bounds," said Gerry Byrne, a senior adviser to Nielsen who also worked with Krakoff at Reed. "He was the toughest and fairest of taskmasters as well as a shining example of how to use the power of ethics and integrity to make a difference. Bob will be sorely missed."

Before joining Reed Elsevier in 1973, Krakoff was president, CEO and a director of AITS Inc., then a large wholesale travel company. He also held executive positions in finance, marketing and planning with Ford Motor Co., Trans World Airlines, the Singer Corp. and RCA.

Krakoff graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He also held an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

He was a past chairman and director of the Association of American Business Media and the 2002 recipient of its McAllister Top Management Fellowship Award for career leadership in business-to-business media. He also was a trustee of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Krakoff was a member of the board of Freedom Communications Inc., a newspaper and TV company based in Irvine, Calif., and a member of the board of governors of the Harvard Business School Association of Boston, where he kept a residence in addition to homes in New York and Florida.

He is survived by his wife, Sandra, and three children.

Paula Parisi and Erik Pedersen