Warren Phillips, who broadened Wall Street Journal, dies at 92

(From left) Mr Warren Phillips, Mr Ray Shaw and Mr Peter Kann in The Wall Street Journal’s newsroom in Manhattan in 1979.
(From left) Mr Warren Phillips, Mr Ray Shaw and Mr Peter Kann in The Wall Street Journal’s newsroom in Manhattan in 1979.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Warren Phillips, the former chief executive officer of Dow Jones & Co. and publisher of its flagship Wall Street Journal as the newspaper became the largest US daily by circulation, has died. He was 92.

Mr Phillips died on Friday (May 10) at his home in Bridgehampton, New York, the Journal said.

Fresh from college in 1947, Mr Phillips took an entry-level position at the Journal - "then a thin, 100,000-circulation financial paper downtown at 44 Broad Street", he recalled in his 2011 memoir. When he retired in 1991, having led the news side for 13 years and the business side for 16, the Journal had circulation of 1.9 million, editions for Europe and Asia and several Pulitzer Prizes.

As Mr Phillips rose from copyreader to executive editor to CEO, the Journal became the indispensable newspaper of the business world. In 1979, it overtook the New York Daily News to become the nation's largest daily, with circulation of almost 2.1 million in 1983 before backsliding for several years.

Mr Phillips and two appointees, editor Norman Pearlstine and associate publisher Peter Kann, broadened the newspaper's scope and size throughout the 1980s by adding staff, a European edition and a new emphasis on topics such as law, technology, real estate and media.

Though viewed as a defender of the Journal's traditional focus on markets and companies, Mr Phillips said he supported expanded coverage, if done the right way.

'BEING BEST'

"I was concerned with balance - not over-focusing so much staff time and front-page space on light, whimsical features or other non-business subjects that our specialty, being best in the coverage of business, was weakened in the process," he wrote in his memoir, Newspaperman: Inside The News Business At The Wall Street Journal.

From 1985, when advertising revenue began a steady decline, Mr Phillips managed Dow Jones through a period of attrition exacerbated by the Black Monday stock-market crash in October 1987. In 1990, the company froze salaries and capital expenditures and sold its corporate jet. Mr Phillips stepped down as CEO on Jan 1, 1991, and as chairman six months later.

A blot on his record was Dow Jones' phased acquisition of Telerate Inc., a financial-data delivery service, for US$1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion), purchased in stages from 1985 to 1990. Dow Jones sold the unit in 1998 for US$510 million to Bridge Information Systems Inc., which became part of Thomson Reuters Corp.

TELERATE 'FAILURE'

In his memoir, Mr Phillips said blame for the Telerate "failure" was "shared by many, certainly including me". He said Dow Jones invested "too little, too late" in the product to make it competitive with those of companies such as Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

To critics of his management record, and Mr Kann's after him, Mr Phillips wrote that Dow Jones "remained essentially strong until the years after 2002 that brought the haemorrhaging of advertising revenue and the flight to the Internet that afflicted the entire publishing industry and left the future of all newspapers in question".

Mr Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought the Journal in 2007, ending 105 years of control by the Bancroft family.

RUSSIAN ROOTS

Mr Warren Henry Phillips was born on June 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Abraham, had been born in czarist Russia and worked in the business office of the Sun, a newspaper in New York, and later co-managed a manufacturer of women's slips, Melody Lane Lingerie. His mother was the former Juliette Rosenberg.

Mr Phillips was raised in Forest Hills, Queens, and attended nearby Queens College. His studies were interrupted by one year of service in the US Army. He worked part-time as a copyboy at the New York Herald Tribune while completing his bachelor's degree in economics.

After graduating in 1947, Mr Phillips said he applied to each of New York's 11 daily newspapers, with the Journal being "last on my list". Hired as a copyreader, Mr Phillips reviewed just-printed editions for errors, sometimes working alongside Mr Barney Kilgore, the editor and manager credited with turning the Journal into a powerhouse.

WRITING COLUMNS

In 1948, Mr Phillips began writing the World-Wide column, part of the Journal's distinctive front-page "What's News" summary.

He married his college girlfriend, Ms Judy Greenwald, and landed a job as a civilian copyreader in Germany with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

He wrote freelance features on postwar Europe for his former editors at the Journal, who hired him back as Germany correspondent. By 23, he was the Journal's London bureau chief. He also was divorced - the result, he said, of his near-total focus on his career.

In 1951, he married Ms Barbara Anne Thomas, an American working for the London branch of the US Office of Naval Research. They moved at year's end to New York, where Phillips became the Journal's foreign editor. Other promotions followed: managing editor of the Midwest edition in Chicago, then managing editor and, in 1965, executive editor of the Journal and other Dow Jones publications, including Barron's, a financial newspaper, and the Dow Jones News Service.

LEADERSHIP POSITIONS

In 1972 he was named president, chief operating officer and a director of Dow Jones, part of a Journal tradition of naming editors to run the business.

The Asian Wall Street Journal, based in Hong Kong, was introduced in 1976 under the guidance of Mr Kann, who had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his coverage of war between India and Pakistan, and Mr Pearlstine, the newspaper's Tokyo bureau chief. The Journal expanded to a third continent in 1983 with the introduction of the Wall Street Journal Europe.

In the US, the Journal responded to demand for advertising space by adding a second section, now called Marketplace, in 1980, and a third, Money and Investing, in 1988. A fourth section, Personal Journal, would begin in 2002.

Mr Phillips named Mr Kann as his associate publisher in 1979 and Mr Pearlstine, who had left the Journal for Forbes magazine, as managing editor in 1983. They were key pieces of the team that ran the journal through the "halcyon days" of the 1980s, as Mr Phillips put it in his book.

After leaving the Journal, Mr Phillips went into business with his wife as independent book publishers based in Bridgehampton on eastern Long Island.

They had three daughters: Lisa, Leslie and Nina.