S.I. Newhouse, the Condé Nast chairman who presided over the magazine world’s glossiest publications and most talked-about editors for more than 40 years, died Sunday. He was 89.
Newhouse’s death was confirmed early Sunday by a family spokesman, according to a report on the website of Vogue, one of the cornerstones of the Newhouse family’s publishing empire.
“Si Newhouse was the most extraordinary leader,” said Anna Wintour, Condé Nast artistic director and editor-in-chief of Vogue, in her tribute. “Wherever he led, I followed, unquestioningly, simply because he put as much faith in me as I had in him. Si never looked at data, or statistics, but went with his instincts, and expected his editors to do the same. He urged us to take risks, and was effusive in his praise when they paid off. Every time I’d preview the latest issue of Vogue with him, he’d encourage me to go for the less expected cover, the more compelling image. Yet there was nothing showy about the way Si led. This humble, thoughtful, highly idiosyncratic man, quite possibly the least judgmental person I’ve ever known, preferred family, friends, art, movies and his beloved pugs over the flashiness of the New York media world. His personality shaped the entire company. It might have been a huge global media entity, yet Si, who arrived at 4 a.m. every day in an unchanging uniform, ran it like his own personal and very benevolent fiefdom. We’d regularly have lunch — lunches which were scheduled by him six months in advance —and he’d arrive with a yellow legal pad, with maybe three words written on it. So few words, yet somehow they encapsulated so many lessons, lessons which I still strive to put into practice every day I come to work.”
Even as the magazine business suffered declines in the digital age, Newhouse spent lavishly on Condé Nast’s gold-plated roster of titles that include Vogue, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Wired, Architectural Digest, Details, Self, GQ and Bon Appetit. He had a knack for picking strong editors with the vision to ensure Condé Nast’s publications stood out from the pack — personalities who inevitably became celebrities in their own right. Anna Wintour, Graydon Carter, Tina Brown, David Remnick, Ruth Whitney and Diana Vreeland were among the stars in the Condé Nast orbit during Newhouse’s long tenure.
Born in New York City, Samuel Irving Newhouse Jr. was the scion of the Newhouse empire who dropped out of college and proved to be a late bloomer in his professional life. His father, Samuel Newhouse Sr., was a self-made publishing mogul who built up his newspaper holdings after starting out as a copyboy as a teenager at a New Jersey. He famously bought the Conde Nast magazine group in 1959 as a gift for his wife, Mitzi, who was a reader of Vogue. Samuel Newhouse Sr. died in 1979, according to media reports.