Washington -- Sidney Harman, longtime industry legend and founder of
Harman Industries, died, here, last night of complications from acute myeloid
leukemia at the age of 92.
The news was reported earlier
today by The Daily
Beast, the online news operation that merged with Newsweek, which he
purchased last year. A
family statement said that Harman died "at the young age of almost 93," and
first learned of the illness a month ago.
He leaves behind his wife, former
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), two children, Daniel and Justine, and two children
from a previous marriage.
Harman was executive chairman of
Newsweek and chairman of the Academy for Polymathic Study at the University of
Southern California. Funeral arrangements will be private. Memorial services
will be held in both in Washington and Los Angeles, at dates still to be
determined, according to the statement.
As his obituary in the New York
Times illustrates, much of the consumer
media coverage of Harman's life surrounds the last big achievement in his
long and varied career - acquiring Newsweek for $1 and reportedly $47 million
of liabilities in August 2010 from The Washington Post Company and merging with
the Daily Beast.
But for members of the CE industry
and audiophiles everywhere his late-life media entry was just part of the
Given Harman's long and innovative
career in the industry he was a member of the inaugural Consumer Electronics Association's
(CEA) CE Hall of Fame in 2000. At the time of his death he was also chairman
emeritus of Harman Industries.
In a prepared statement Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA,
said, "Sidney was a true industry
leader who revolutionized the music industry. He was one of the inaugural
inductees into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2000, an award that
commemorates the impact icons like Sidney had on our industry. With the passing
of Sidney, we have lost a good friend and mentor."
The biography of Harman on CEA's Hall of Fame site said
his career in CE took off in 1953 when Harman partnered with Bernard
Kardon and "helped define the home hi-fi industry" with the development of the
Harman bought out his partner in 1956 and then expanded
Harman Kardon. In the early 1970s Harman began experimenting at his Tennessee
factory with a management technique. Nicknamed the Bolivar Project, it involved
cooperative labor-management of the plant in which workers set their own
schedules and goals. The national publicity from the project led to Harman's
appointment as Undersecretary of the Department of Commerce during the Carter
administration, the CEA biography noted.
When Harman moved to Washington in 1976, he sold his company
to conglomerate Beatrice Foods but in 1980, after leaving government service,
he pieced together Harman International Industries by reacquiring a number of
the businesses he had sold to Beatrice including JBL, Harman Kardon and
Infinity and Epicure loudspeakers as well as other brands in the professional
Harman International expanded into the automotive market
with car speakers. Harman acquired a $5 million business from the wire division
of United Technologies and in five years transformed it into a $100 million
business and became a leading speaker supplier to the automotive OEM market,
according to the CEA biography.
Three years ago in April 2007 Harman and the company board
signed an agreement to sell
Harman Industries to Goldman Sachs and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
for about $8 billion, but the deal
fell through, due to a variety of factors in September of that year.
Paliwal said in a company statement this afternoon on Harman's passing, "His legacy of leading-edge innovation and premium quality will continue to live on at Harman and I am grateful to Dr. Harman for the trust he placed in the company's management to carry on his legacy.He will be remembered for his great charm, his curiosity, his philanthropic and public service interests, his genuine kindness to employees and customers alike."
In an exclusive
interview with TWICE senior editor Joe Palenchar in August 2008 around the
time of his retirement, Harman discussed making technology easy to use and
understandable for consumers - something that the industry often forgets: "Technology
is there to serve the customer, not to terrify, not to intimidate the customer.
That's a mindset of colossal importance. If management and engineering believes
it's there to show off how damn smart we are, you get a product with so much
complexity that it baffles the consumer."
But as his acquisition of Newsweek and subsequent merger
with the Daily Beast showed, Harman was far from the retiring type.
To illustrate his impact on his new colleagues at Newsweek click
here for a remembrance by journalist Jonathan Alter.
Harman's book "Mind
Your Own Business" was published in 2003. In an excerpt on leadership that
TWICE published that year, Harman wrote, "The leader inspires. People want work
to be more than drudgery. They want to see meaning in their jobs that justifies
and warrants the hours they devote to them. Inspiration promises something
beyond wages-a sense that the company has a greater meaning, its own values,
and its own reason for existence. A leader must find the way to deliver that
message and keep on delivering it."
Harman certainly inspired many during his long, varied and