Lewis Katz, the 72-year-old co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, died last night in the crash of a private jet at an airstrip in Bedford, Mass. Headed for Atlantic City, the Gulfstream IV was carrying seven people, all of whom died, according to an account in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The news comes just days after Katz and partner H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest prevailed against their former ownership partners in an auction for the Inquirer, the Daily News and Internet properties. They paid $88 million.
Katz leaves behind a legacy of savvy investments, despite his recent dalliance with newspapers. He made his fortune in billboards, parking, banking and sports; he was once a controlling partner in the New Jersey Nets.
Despite his considerable wealth, Katz remained rooted in the Camden, N.J., community where he grew up, and his participation in the ownership group that bought the Inquirer in 2012 sprung from his concern for a critical local institution. Yet the partnership didn’t work. Katz and Lenfest feuded with partner George Norcross, a force in New Jersey politics and an insurance-brokerage titan. The fight broke into the open last fall, when the two sides went to court over the firing of Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow. Katz and Lenfest painted Marimow’s ouster as the work of a meddling Norcross.
Months of legal jousting ended this past week, as Katz and Lenfest prevailed in the auction.
Lenfest told the Inquirer that Katz’s son, Drew Katz, will replace his father on the company’s board. “We all deeply mourn the loss of my true friend and fellow investor in ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and Philly.com,” Lenfest said.