Obituary: Lewis Katz / Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner

Died May 31, 2014

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Lewis Katz, a self-made man who built his fortune in New York parking lots, billboards and cable TV, and went on to buy the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets, the National Hockey League's New Jersey Devils and The Philadelphia Inquirer, died in a plane crash Saturday night. He was 72.

Mr. Katz died in the Massachusetts crash that claimed six other lives, just days after reaching a deal that many hoped would end months of infighting at the Inquirer and help restore it to its former glory. His death was confirmed Sunday by his son, Drew, and his business partner Harold H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.

The businessman's Gulfstream corporate jet ran off the end of a runway, plunged down an embankment and erupted in flames during a takeoff attempt at Hanscom Field outside Boston, authorities said. There were no survivors.

Mr. Katz was returning to New Jersey from a gathering at the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Also killed was a next-door neighbor of Mr. Katz's, Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired preschool teacher he had invited to accompany him.

The identities of the other victims weren't immediately released.

Investigators said it was too soon to discuss the cause of the crash.

Mr. Katz had invited former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to join him on the trip, but Mr. Rendell was unable to accept the invitation, The New York Times reported.

Mr. Katz grew up in working-class Camden, N.J., and worked as a lawyer before earning hundreds of millions of dollars investing in the Kinney Parking empire and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network in New York. He went on to become a major philanthropist in the Philadelphia region.

He hoped to be a hands-off owner of the Inquirer, where his longtime companion, Nancy Phillips, was the city editor.

Mr. Katz had agreed to invest $16 million for a 26 percent stake in the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News in 2012 at the behest of Mr. Rendell, who wanted to return the newspapers to local ownership after a bankruptcy that left them in the hands of New York hedge funds.

But a feud with rival investor George Norcross, an equally powerful business leader, over the direction of the news business forced Mr. Katz to be more a more active owner.

Mr. Katz filed suit last year to stop Mr. Norcross from firing Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Bill Marimow. He succeeded, then joined Mr. Lenfest in bidding $88 million to buy out Mr. Norcross and his allies at an auction Tuesday.

The sale had been set to close June 12 but now will be delayed for 30 days to give Mr. Katz's family time to get the estate in order, Mr. Lenfest said.

Drew Katz will take his father's seat on the board of directors, Mr. Lenfest said.

"My father was my best friend. He taught me everything," Drew Katz, who was often seen at his father's side at business events, said in a statement on behalf of him and his sister.

Mr. Katz had recently given $25 million to Temple University for its medical school, and had previously given $15 million to another alma mater, Penn State University's Dickinson Law School, where he had graduated first in his class.


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