Sidney Harman, businessman, author, philanthropist, has died.
Sidney Harman, an extraordinarily successful businessman whose generosity contributed to the performing arts in Washington, died April 12 at the age of ninety-two. He suffered from acute myeloid leukemia.
Harman’s most recent business coups had been the purchase of Newsweek from the Washington Post last August and subsequently acquiring Internet giant The Daily Beast.
The newsmagazine’s acquisition was merely the latest of a nearly sixty-year career of relentless business success and public generosity by Harman. His public career began in 1953 when he founded Harman Kardon, Inc., a firm which specialized in an entirely novel product – hi-fidelity speakers for consumers. Harman eventually sold the company to Beatrice Foods for $100 million – and later bought it back. For $55 million.
“He was a magical man, full of intellectual curiosity and a desire to see Newsweek reflect the pursuit of ideas,” said Tina Brown, who now edits Newsweek. “We very quickly formed both a great editorial relationship and a warm personal friendship. I shall miss him tremendously.”
In D.C., however, Harman was principally appreciated as a generous sponsor of the arts, and most specifically of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, where he served as a trustee for many years and for whom the company’s newest theater is named: Sidney Harman Hall.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend, trustee and loyal supporter, Sidney Harman,” Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Michael Kahn said. “Sidney’s contributions both to the Shakespeare Theatre Company and to the entire arts community are tremendously commendable and invaluable. We are extremely thankful to Sidney for his huge support in the building of Sidney Harman Hall. His commitment to the arts has inspired many and has been felt throughout the city of Washington and beyond. As I got to know Sidney and became aware of his enormous contributions to the arts and to arts education, my admiration for him grew. It was a pleasure and an honor as we worked together to be counted among his many friends.”
“Sidney Harman enjoyed an extraordinarily life, characterized by great passions, for his wife, for the performing arts, for ideas and for life itself.” Shakespeare Board Chair Michael R. Klein added. “ All of us privileged to know him, enjoyed our own lives more because of him. He gave generously of himself and his assets to all of those passions. In the Jewish sense of an afterlife, in which one lives on in the fond memories of those left behind, Sidney Harman will be alive for a long, long loving time.”
He stayed active and involved throughout his long life. After re-acquiring Harman Kardon from Beatrice Foods, he renamed it Harman International Industries and continued to manage it personally until he was eighty-eight. He also served as Undersecretary of Commerce in the Carter Administration, and as a trustee of the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and the National Symphony Orchestra as well as the Shakespeare Theatre. He was chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of the Public Agenda Foundation and Business Executives for National Security; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Council on Competitiveness; and the Board of the Leadership Institute of the University of Southern California. He authored two books: “Starting With the People” with the pollster Daniel Yankelovich and, in 2003, ” Mind Your Own Business”.
The expression of his passion for arts philanthropy is born out through the Harman Family Foundation.
Harman is survived by his wife, the former California Congress Member Jane Harman, and two children.