Arthur W. 'Nick' Arundel, newspaper publisher and philanthropist, dies at 83

Arthur Arundel holds one of the two baby gorillas he brought to the National Zoo from Central Africa in 1955.
Arthur Arundel holds one of the two baby gorillas he brought to the National Zoo from Central Africa in 1955. (Washington Post File Photo)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 9:07 PM

Arthur W. "Nick" Arundel, 83, founder of the Washington area Times Community newspapers who used his wealth to preserve thousands of acres of Virginia countryside from development, died of pulmonary failure Feb. 8 at his home in The Plains, Va.

At its peak, Times Community owned 17 papers, including the Loudoun Times-Mirror, Fauquier Times-Democrat and Fairfax County Times, which Mr. Arundel's company sold to The Washington Post in 2009.

Mr. Arundel (pronounced AIR-uhn-dell) was the son of multimillionaire Pepsi-Cola bottling magnate Russell Arundel. He served as chairman of his father's company, PepCom Industries, once the largest East Coast bottler of Pepsi, before the business was sold in 1980.

In 1982, Mr. Arundel bought 800 acres of boggy Piedmont land in a bankruptcy auction on the steps of the Fauquier County courthouse. At first destined to be split into 500 home plots, the parcel is now known as Great Meadow, a bucolic events facility that hosts summer twilight polo matches, a Fourth of July fireworks spectacle, and the spring and fall Gold Cup thoroughbred races. In all, Mr. Arundel helped place 5,000 acres into conservation easement.

His foray into journalism began in the late 1950s when he worked as a copy boy for the Washington bureau of CBS News and later as a reporter for what became the United Press International wire service.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Arundel formed a communications company after buying a failing Northern Virginia country music radio station with one disc jockey. When he learned that his DJ had been killed in a car crash, Mr. Arundel went to the station the next morning and ordered a station announcer with a deep, booming voice to read wire-service stories on the air.

"When I bought it, it was a bankrupt little hillybilly station," Mr. Arundel told Editor and Publisher magazine in 1993, explaining how WAVA became one of the first all-news radio stations in the Washington market.

Mr. Arundel had bought the Loudoun Times-Mirror in 1963. The Leesburg-based publication was Mr. Arundel's first stake in print journalism and was the flagship of his Times Community chain.

The core publications of the network included the Reston Times, the Fauquier Times-Democrat, the Rappahannock News and the Clarke Times-Courier. At one point, his newspapers had a combined circulation of 273,000.

"We call ourselves not local papers," Mr. Arundel told Editor and Publisher in 1993. "We call ourselves local, local, local papers."

Much of the editorial content in Mr. Arundel's newspapers focused on land-use planning and zoning issues - popular topics among readers in the rapidly expanding region.

A former Marine Corps officer, Mr. Arundel ran his business with a militaristic attention to detail and efficiency that made his newspaper chain routinely turn a profit. Many employees complained, however, that salaries were too low.

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