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A quiet leader with a mighty pen: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Arthur Ochs “Punch” Sulzberger, former publisher of The New York Times who died in 2012, had not been an obvious choice as leader.

When he took over the newspaper in 1963, some of its executives described him as “not up to the challenge.” Yet he took the company’s annual revenue from $100 million to $1.7 billion over 34 years, while defending press freedoms and transforming the paper into a multimedia enterprise.

Mild-mannered, introverted and modest, Sulzberger remained modest even after great success in the family business—maybe because he had ignored great hubris from an early age.

He recalled a gathering on the lawn of his family’s estate during a newspaper convention in the 1940s. Suddenly, a helicopter swooped in and landed, raising hair and dust. Outside it read, “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” Inside sat Col. Robert McCormick of The Chicago Tribune.

“Daddy was mad as could be, but we thought it was great,” Sulzberger recalled. “I’d never seen a helicopter before.”

— Adapted from “The Lives They Lived: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger,” Donald E. Graham, The New York Times Magazine.

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