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H. F. Lenfest, Philadelphia media mogul and philanthropist, dies at 88



H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, who made $ 1 billion worth of cable in the cable industry and backed nearly everything, supporting schools, museums, journalism, and art in Philadelphia and beyond, died on August 5 at a hospital in Philadelphia. He was 88 years old.

Cause were complications from chronic diseases, said Fred Stein, family spokesman. Lenfest and his wife, the former Marguerite Brooks, raised approximately $ 1

.2 billion in 2000 when they sold Suburban Cable to Comcast. The Lenfests immediately set about passing on the assets. In 2014, when Mr. Lenfest stepped in to help Philadelphia's ailing newspapers, he estimated he had given away $ 1.1 billion.

"Money is a responsibility, if you have that kind of prosperity, I've been trying to get it right, maybe the biggest opportunity came from owning these newspapers," said Mr. Lenfest in 2016, when he was the Philadelphia Inquirer and donated his sister publications to a newly established nonprofit organization. "What would this city be without the Inquirer and Daily News?"

The Lenfests also gave awards to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, and Mr. Lenfest's Alma Maters: Mercersburg Academy of Pennsylvania, Washington and Lee University of Lexington, Virginia, and Columbia University.

Marguerite's alma mater, Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, also received funding. Mr. Lenfest also spent $ 50 million on the new Museum of the American Revolution, which opened in April 2017, and he saw it as the "missing link" linking the city's historic sites.


At inaugural ceremonies for the Museum of the American Revolution in 2017, Mr. Lenfest was portrayed by former Vice President Joe Biden, a representative of the Nation Oneida and a reenactor George Washington. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Their three children did not need the money – they got stakes in Mr. Lenfest's cable company when it was not worth much – and Mr. Lenfest said he feared a permanent foundation would do more to perpetuate itself to help others.

"Throughout your life, you can tell yourself how your wealth is spent for the best, but after your death, it's problematic, you do not have control," he told the Inquirer in 2004.

Within four years, the Lenfests had given away $ 325 million and made the list of the 400 richest Americans in Forbes magazine. Nearly half of this money – $ 150 million – went to a foundation that has to spend its last penny within 20 years of the death of the last spouse.

At the age of 84, in June 2014, Mr. Lenfest was unexpectedly the sole owner of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com after business associate Lewis Katz died in a plane crash after spending $ 88 million on the purchase of the Paid by his co-owner George Norcross.

Although the Lenfests described a luxurious life with yachts, expensive cars, and several homes, friends described them as down to earth. They spent much of their time in their home in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, which they bought in 1966 for $ 35,000. Without help cooked the Lenfests for guests.

Harold FitzGerald Lenfest and his twin sister Marie were born Jacksonville, Fla., On May 29, 1930. They soon moved to Scarsdale, New York, where their father worked in the shipping industry and later on a farm near Lambertville, NJ worked

Mr. Lenfest earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Washington and Lee in 1953 and married Brooks two years later. In addition to his wife and sister, the survivors include three children, Brook J. Lenfest, H. Chase Lenfest, and Diane Lenfest Myer; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Lenfest served in the Navy and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1958.

He worked for a New York law firm before becoming an employment manager at Walter Annenberg Triangle Publications, the TV Guide, Seventeen Magazine, several TV owned and radio stations, and cable licenses.

Annenberg decided in 1973 to sell the cable systems. Mr. Lenfest eventually bought the system in Lebanon, Pennsylvania with the help of two investors.

"I was editor and publisher of the magazine Seventeen and had an office on Park Avenue, I had a good salary," Mr. Lenfest recalled in 2000. "I've made it out of my basement for 12 years, not nationwide I did not sleep well on the sofa in Lebanon because I could not afford a hotel room. "

This system in Lebanon eventually became Suburban Cable, the country's 11th largest cable company. Lenfest initially expanded slowly. He expanded the system in Lebanon, set up cable concessions in Philadelphia and in 1981 had about 40,000 subscribers. The company acquired systems in and around San Francisco and pushed for expansion in the Philadelphia area.

When Mr. Lenfest sold Suburban to Comcast in 2000, it had 1.2 million subscribers.


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