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Walter Hubert Annenberg (March 13, 1908 – October 1, 2002) was an Americanmarker billionaire publisher, philanthropist, and diplomat.

Early life

Walter Annenberg was born to a Jewish family in Milwaukeemarker, Wisconsinmarker on March 13, 1908. He was the son of Sarah and Moses "Moe" Annenberg, who published The Daily Racing Form and purchased The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1936. The Annenberg family moved to Long Islandmarker, New Yorkmarker in 1920, and Walter attended high school at the Peddie Schoolmarker in Hightstownmarker, New Jerseymarker, graduating in 1927. He went on to college at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, graduating in 1931. While in college he was a member of Zeta Beta Tau, a Jewish fraternity.

Annenberg was greatly affected by the scandals that involved his father in the 1930s. A significant part of his adult life was dedicated to rehabilitating the family's name, through philanthropy and public service.

Business life

In 1942, after his father's death, Annenberg took over the family businesses, making successes out of some that had been failing. He bought additional print media as well as radio and television stations, resulting in great success. One of his most prominent successes was the creation of TV Guide in 1952, which he started against the advice of his financial advisers. He also created Seventeen magazine.

While Annenberg ran his publishing empire as a business, he was not afraid to use it for his own ends. One of his publications, The Philadelphia Inquirer, was influential in ridding Philadelphiamarker of its largely corrupt city government in 1949. It attacked McCarthyism in the 1950s, and campaigned for the Marshall Plan following World War II.

In 1966, Annenberg used the pages of The Inquirer to cast doubt on the candidacy of Democrat Milton Shapp, for governor of Pennsylvania. Shapp was highly critical of the proposed merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad with the New York Central and was pushing the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission to stop it. Walter Annenberg, who according to his New York Times obituary, was the biggest individual stockholder of the Pennsylvania Railroad, wanted to see the merger go through and was frustrated with Shapp's opposition. During a press conference, an Inquirer reporter asked Shapp if he had ever been a patient in a mental hospital. Having never been in one, Shapp simply said "no". The next day, a five-column front page Inquirer headline read, “Shapp Denies Mental Institution Stay.” Shapp and othershave attributed his loss of the election to Annenberg's newspaper.

Philanthropy and later life

Even while an active businessman, Annenberg had an interest in public service. After Richard M. Nixon was elected President, he appointed Annenberg as ambassador to the Court of St. James's in the United Kingdommarker. In 1969 Annenberg sold The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, which he bought in 1957, to Knight Newspapers for US$55 million. After being appointed as ambassador, he became quite popular in Britainmarker, eventually being made an honorary knight of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).

Annenberg led a lavish lifestyle. His "Sunnylandsmarker" winter estate in Rancho Miragemarker, Californiamarker (near Palm Springsmarker) hosted gatherings with such people as President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Charles, Prince of Wales. It was Annenberg who introduced President Reagan to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the Reagans often celebrated New Year's Eve with the Annenbergs. Leonore Annenberg was named by President Ronald Reagan as the State Departmentmarker's Chief of Protocol as well. Sunnylands covers guard-gated on a parcel surrounded by a stucco wall at the northwest corner of Frank Sinatra Drive and Bob Hope Drive; the property includes a golf course.Annenberg established the Annenberg Schools for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern Californiamarker. He became a champion of public television, acquiring many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Reagan and the Linus Pauling Medal for Humanitarianism. In 1989, he established the Annenberg Foundation, and 1993, created the Annenberg Challenge, a US$500 million, five-year reform effort and the largest single gift ever made to American public education.

He sold TV Guide, Seventeen, and a few other publications to Australian publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch in 1988 for US$3 billion, announcing that he would devote the rest of his life to philanthropy.

During his lifetime, it is estimated that Annenberg donated over US$2 billion. "Education...", he once said, "holds civilization together". Many school buildings, libraries, theaters, hospitals, and museums across the United States now bear his name. His collection of French impressionist art was valued at approximately US$1 billion in 1991 and was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker in New York Citymarker upon his passing in 2002. In 1990, he donated $50 million to the United Negro College Fund which was the largest amount ever contributed to the organization.

Personal life

Annenberg's first marriage, to Veronica Dunkelman, ended in divorce in 1950 after eleven years together. While married, Dunkelman and Annenberg had two children: a daughter, Wallis, and son, Roger. Roger committed suicide in 1962; to commemorate his death, Harvard Universitymarker, where Roger was a student at the time, now has a Roger Annenberg Hall named in his honor. Annenberg's 1951 marriage to his second wife, Leonore "Lee" Cohn, was, by all accounts, a lasting and fulfilling relationship. Lee was a niece of Harry Cohn, founder and successful mogul of Columbia Pictures.

Death

Annenberg died at his home in Wynnewoodmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker on October 1, 2002 from complications dealing with pneumonia; he was aged 94. He was survived by his wife Leonore, daughter Wallis, and two sisters, Enid Haupt, and Evelyn Hall. Including those by his wife's daughters from her first two marriages (Diane Deshong and Elizabeth Kabler), he left behind seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

References

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