Lewis Katz, co-owner of the company that publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer
and Philadelphia Daily News
, was killed along with six other passengers and crew when the private plane
they were traveling in crashed on takeoff at an airfield in Massachusetts on Saturday evening. Katz was 72 years old.
The Gulfstream IV jet was scheduled to take Katz and several
other passengers from Hanscom Field, a general aviation airport located about 20 miles northwest of Boston between Lexington and Concord, to Atlantic City, NJ.
Eyewitnesses interviewed by
The Boston Globe
said the plane was in the process of taking off when it exploded around 9:40 p.m., creating a fireball that rose 60 feet into the air. Law enforcement and emergency
responders were on the scene within minutes and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
The accident comes less than a week after Katz and partner
Gerry Lenfest finally wrested full control of Philadelphia Media Network (PMN), which owns the Philadelphia newspapers, as well as related properties like Philly.com, from estranged co-owner George
Norcross following a protracted, high-profile legal dispute.
In the deal struck May 27, Katz and Lenfest agreed to buy out Norcross for $88 million. The deal followed a public feud
that began in October 2013 when Inquirer
publisher tried Robert J. Hall tried to fire Inquirer
editor Bill Marimow, apparently at the behest of Norcross and against the wishes of
Katz and Lenfest.
As their falling out became public, Katz claimed that Norcross was trying to seize control of the newsroom, while Norcross leveled the same accusation at Katz.
Marimow was restored to his position as editor at the order of a Philadelphia court in November 2013, but the conflict between the owners effectively paralyzed the company, setting the stage for a
court battle for control of the newspapers.
That court battle came to a conclusion in late April, when Delaware Court of Chancery vice chancellor Donald F. Parsons Jr. ordered that
PMN’s parent company, Interstate General Media, must be dissolved and its properties, including the Inquirer
and its sister paper the Philadelphia Daily News
, sold in a private
auction between the owners. The deal, announced on Tuesday, appeared to mark the final resolution of the dispute with a decisive victory for Katz and Lenfest.
Katz built his fortune
with investments in Kinney System, a parking lot chain, and later invested in the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, a regional cable and satellite TV network that debuted in 2002. In April
2012, he joined forces with Norcross to buy Philadelphia Media Network from its previous owner, Philadelphia Media Holdings, for $55 million as part of the latter entity’s exit from Chapter 11