NEW YORK — Robert J. Danzig, who overcame difficult beginnings as a foster child during the Great Depression to become the head of Hearst Newspapers, has died, the company said. He was 85.
Danzig lead the newspaper division at Hearst from 1977 to 1997, overseeing its growth to become the seventh largest newspaper company in the United States, the company said. He died Wednesday in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, after a long illness.
Under Danzig’s leadership, Hearst acquired the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and several community newspapers. It gained a daily circulation of more than 1.3 million and a Sunday circulation of more than 2.5 million, the company said.
“Bob Danzig played a pivotal role in the dramatic growth of Hearst’s newspaper operations in a career that spanned more than 50 years,” Hearst President and CEO Steven R. Swartz said. “He was the rarest of executive talent, with equal measures of pragmatism and warmth, and his leadership lessons are part of Hearst’s DNA.”
Danzig was also a senior Hearst executive a member of the company’s board of directors.
After his retirement from the company in 1998, he wrote several books about foster children, inspired by his own childhood. Danzig’s parents divorced during the Great Depression and abandoned him in Albany, New York, at the age of 2, Hearst said. He spent the next 14 years in various foster homes.
“Bob’s contributions to Hearst went beyond the newspaper division,” said Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and former CEO of Hearst. “He mentored and encouraged young talent and created opportunities for all who were lucky enough to be taken under his wing. He was also among my longest serving and most beloved and admired partners.”
Danzig wrote in a personal reflection that “foster care children often drift through life because there is no force to offer encouragement or guidance.” But he credited several adults for encouraging him to succeed, including a social worker named Mae Morse who told him at the age of 12, “You are worthwhile.”
Danzig first joined Hearst as an office boy for the Times Union in Albany after graduating high school in 1950. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he returned to the newspaper as an ad salesman and attended Sienna College at night, graduating with honours in 1962.
He rose through the ranks to become publisher of the Times Union and Knickerbocker News and eventually general manager of Hearst’s 6,000-employee news division.
His books on foster children included “Every Child Deserves a Champion” and “There is Only One You.” He donated the proceeds from the books to the Child Welfare League of America, a national charity serving neglected children, Hearst said.
Danzig is survived by his wife Dianne, five children and 10 grandchildren. He is also survived by his wife’s three daughters and their children and grandchildren.