Bob Blank, for­mer Star Demo­crat part­ner, busi­ness­man, dead at 75


Spe­cial from the Star Demo­crat

— A cham­pion from the hey­day of print jour­nal­ism on the East­ern Shore died Satur­day, April 30, 2016.

Bob Blank, a 45-year vet­eran se­nior part­ner of Whit­com Part­ners, own­ers of The Star Demo­crat, the Kent County News and other news­pa­pers on the East­ern Shore and south­ern Mary­land, along with an ar­ray of ad­di­tional hold­ings, was 75 years old.

Blank was a busi­ness­man who had many in­ter­ests and in­vest­ments in a wide va­ri­ety of pur­suits, but held a spe­cial place in his heart for the news­pa­per busi­ness, par­tic­u­larly on the Shore, ac­cord­ing to his col­leagues and for­mer em­ploy­ees.

Those who worked for him here re­mem­ber him as a strong leader and stead­fast sup­porter.

“He was as com­fort­able in the board room in New York car­ry­ing our torch as he was vis­it­ing with us at a pa­tio pic­nic on a trib­u­tary to the Ch­e­sa­peake,” Blake Wil­son wrote in re­sponse to Blank’s New York Times obit­u­ary. Wil­son worked for the Ch­e­sa­peake news­pa­per group in the 1970s.

Blank was born Nov. 28, 1940 in Philadel­phia to Samuel Allen Blank and Ruth Saler Blank. He was a mem­ber of the Class of 1958 at the Haver­ford School in Penn­syl­va­nia.

He grad­u­ated from Cor­nell Univer­sity in 1962 and ob­tained a law de­gree from the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

Blank be­gan his law ca­reer as an as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney in Washington, D.C. and Philadel­phia, from 1965 to 1968.

He de­cided to try work­ing


in fi­nance when he got a job in the merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions depart­ment at Gold­man Sachs.

In 1972 he joined the Whit­ney Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Corp. as a part­ner, in­vest­ing in tele­vi­sion sta­tions, ra­dio, ca­ble, mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers.

The pri­mary part­ner and founder of Whit­ney Com­mu­ni­ca­tions was John Hay “Jock” Whit­ney, pub­lisher, phi­lan­thropist, sports­man, in­vestor and U.S. am­bas­sador to the United King­dom, among oth­ers.

Whit­ney Com­mu­ni­ca­tions’ sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­ests, at one time or an­other, in­cluded Art in Amer­ica mag­a­zine; In­te­rior De­sign, a trade mag­a­zine; Pa­rade, a Sun­day news­pa­per sup­ple­ment; the In­ter­na­tional Her­ald Tri­bune Co.; 25 small news­pa­pers, five tele­vi­sion sta­tions and six ra­dio sta­tions.

One of their news­pa­pers in Cam­den, Maine was owned by famed tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist Wal­ter Cronkite, ac­cord­ing to re­tired Ce­cil Whig ed­i­tor Don Her­ring.

In 1975 Whit­ney Com­mu­ni­ca­tions pur­chased news­pa­pers on the Shore and south­ern Mary­land. They called their Mary­land group the Ch­e­sa­peake Pub­lish­ing Corp.

“And Bob pretty much over­saw the news­pa­pers,” Tom Bradlee said, who was pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Ch­e­sa­peake Pub­lish­ing.

He said Blank al­ways looked for­ward to driv­ing down from Philadel­phia to Eas­ton, and of all the news­pa­pers that Whit­ney owned, The Star Demo­crat was Blank’s fa­vorite.

“Kind of like you are not sup­posed to have fa­vorite chil­dren but you do,” Bradlee said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that his fa­vorite was The Star Demo­crat.”

Edi­tors and re­porters who re­mem­ber Blank re­call a boss who was easy to talk to and showed a deep re­spect for jour­nal­ism.

“He was very kind to me,” said Denise Ri­ley, ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Star Demo­crat. “And you know, some of the busi­ness part­ners could be a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing, but he was not.”

She said Blank would of­ten send her a per­sonal, typed note of praise for ed­i­to­ri­als or projects that he liked and took a per­sonal in­ter­est in those who worked for him. When he came to visit, he al­ways had a lot of ques­tions to ask, she said.

“He was in­ter­ested in ev­ery­thing — ev­ery as­pect of the news­pa­per,” Her­ring said. “How we gath­ered the news, the pa­per, what we in­tended to do. He never dic­tated ed­i­to­rial pol­icy, never told us to do one thing or the other as far as ed­i­to­rial. That was not his pol­icy.”

“The news­pa­per busi­ness has plenty of busi­ness things to worry about — the print­ing end, a tricky com­po­nent, the pro­duc­tion end and all that,” Bradlee said. “So the busi­ness end is where he fo­cused his at­ten­tion, but he loved the ed­i­to­rial side of it.”

“He pushed for ex­cel­lence, but was very fair,” Larry Eff­in­g­ham said, for­mer pub­lisher of The Star Demo­crat.

“He was a great owner; gave us all the econ­omy in the world,” Eff­in­g­ham said. “I can hon­estly say that the best years of my ca­reer were un­der his own­er­ship.”

Bradlee said Blank was an un­der­stated per­son who was proud of his fam­ily and talked mostly about them.

“He spoke of­ten of his fam­ily ... and al­ways asked about ours,” Wil­son wrote. “Tak­ing the ef­fort to re­mem­ber spe­cific things about fam­ily re­la­tion­ships that were im­por­tant to us.”

Bradlee said Blank was a mod­est man who was very, very bright.

“He had a very dry sense of hu­mor, a keen wit and was very sharp,” he said.

He said that when Blank was not work­ing, he en­joyed be­ing out­doors and was an avid ten­nis and golf player.

Along with be­ing a part­ner in Whit­ney, Blank was also di­rec­tor of the Toll Broth­ers Inc. real es­tate cor­po­ra­tion, di­rec­tor of the Devon Group Inc., and the di­rec­tor of Ad­vanta Corp., ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg.

He was a ded­i­cated alum­nus of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, the son of Penn graduates, and was proud that his three chil­dren also were Penn grads, ac­cord­ing to David Co­hen, who is pres­i­dent of the board of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, and oth­ers.

Co­hen left con­do­lences along with other Penn board mem­bers and deans on­line af­ter read­ing Blank’s New York Times obit­u­ary.

Blank served as a Penn trustee and was an emer­i­tus trustee when he died.

He served for many years as an over­seer for the Univer­sity’s Law School and Whar­ton School, and on the Univer­sity’s Medicine Board.

Blank and his wife en­dowed pro­fes­sor­ships, pro­vided stu­dent fi­nan­cial aid and sup­ported sev­eral ar­eas of the univer­sity.

Blank is sur­vived by his wife of 42 years, Nancy Blank; three chil­dren Wendy, Samuel and Matt; and seven grand­chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to his obit­u­ary. His fu­neral was held May 4 at Tem­ple Emanu-El in New York City.

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