Former Media Mogul, Philanthropist H.F. Lenfest Dies at 88

Sold Suburban Cable to Comcast in 2000, making he and his wife nearly $1.2 billion
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H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a former media mogul who spent much of his fortune on philanthropic efforts, died Sunday, said a spokesman for the family. He was 88.

Lenfest died of complications from chronic illness.

The industry veteran sold Suburban Cable to Comcast Corp. in 2000. The deal made Lenfest and his wife Marguerite nearly $1.2 billion, most of which they gave away.

“Gerry Lenfest was a model entrepreneur,” said Mark Dzuban, president and CEO, SCTE•ISBE. “He recognized that his relationship with the public didn’t end with the delivery of cable TV services, but rather that there was an implied obligation to use the money he made to further the public good.”

Lenfest invested in Philadelphia’s newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, which he became sole owner of in 2014 after his business partner Lewis Katz died in a plane crash. The duo had closed on the company days before, paying $88 million to buy out George Norcross.

Lenfest and his wife have also donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Barnes Foundation; Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts; the Museum of the American Revolution; Gerry’s alma maters Mercersburg Academy, Washington and Lee University and Columbia University; and Marguerite’s alma mater Wilson College.

By 2014, Lenfest estimated he had given away more than $1 billion. 

Early in his career, Lenfest began working at Walter Annenberg’s Triangle Publications. In 1973, he was able to buy Triangle’s cable assets in Lebanon, Penn. from Annenberg. Lenfest expanded the Lebanon system, which was eventually known as Suburban Cable, from 40,000 subscribers to 1.2 million subscribers at the time of its sale to Comcast.

A memorial service is planned in Philadelphia in September.

Lenfest is survived by his wife; three children, Brook J., H. Chase, and Diane Lenfest Myer; twin sister Marie Lenfest Schmitz; and five grandchildren.

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