William Ziff, one of the most far-sighted publishers in America – he predicted the impact computers would have on the publishing industry long before anyone else – died at his home outside New York, aged 76.
Over the years, after taking over the company that his father with a partner, Bernard Davis, started in l927, Ziff pioneered new magazines, not once but twice. First with hobby magazines such as Car & Driver, Popular Aviation and Popular Photography, then when the computer era began launched publications such as PC Magazine, Electronic Gaming and Expert Gamer.
Former colleagues described him as a visionary. One, William Lohse, a former president of Ziff-Davis, recalled “We used to joke that he could see the future. He replied that he just saw things as they were, in the present, while others looked at the past.” He was also a publisher who gave his editors free rein and protected them from interference from advertisers .
“He revered editorial and made sure the church and state wall separating the editorial and business sides was never breached” recalled Dan Farber a former editor who worked for Ziff Davis for 12 years.
In the l980’s, after learning he had prostrate cancer, Ziff started selling some of the magazines. He sold the consumer and business magazines for $l,400 million.. They continued to be a goldmine. A year later the purchaser, Forstman Little, sold the magazines to a Japanese company , Softbank Corp, for $2,100 million. One of Ziff’s three sons, Robert Ziff, suggested that one of his father’s magazines, Popular Electronics, even inspired a young subscriber named Bill Gates, to get into the computer programming business. Subsequently Gates founded Microsoft and is today one of the richest men in the world. End