Business, media figure Joe Allbritton dies

Dec. 13, 2012 at 10:44 AM
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HOUSTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Joe L. Allbritton, one of the most influential media and financial personalities of his generation, has died in Houston at the age of 87, his family said.

Allbritton, who died Wednesday, had been in ill health for several months, said son Robert Allbritton, publisher of Politico and chief executive officer of the privately held media company.

"Joe was, first and foremost, a beloved and loyal husband, father, grandfather and friend," his family said in a statement Wednesday. "His life was defined by a love, wit, charm and attentiveness that will be forever cherished by all of us. Joe's life was also one of great achievement, as a businessman, innovator and philanthropist. He was fiercely passionate and unfailingly generous."

Allbritton made his original fortune in banking, becoming a millionaire by age 33, Politico said.

In 1974, he bought The Washington Star, the esteemed but financially ailing afternoon newspaper founded in 1852. He owned the now-shuttered Star for four years.

Friends and associates described Allbritton as being able to look at a business and determine its cost, debt, cash flow and growth potential -- something other investors missed, Politico said.

Allbritton's business acumen led to controlling stakes in Texas banks, insurance companies, a chain of funeral homes, media properties and the Riggs Bank in Washington, which was the target of a successful hostile takeover. Riggs was sold in 2005 to PNC Financial Services Group after the company paid millions of dollars in fines for its dealings with a number of foreign interests.

In her memoir, Katharine Graham, the late publisher of The Washington Post, recalled Allbritton as "a brilliant deal-maker."

He also was a philanthropist, serving on many boards, Politico said. Through the Allbritton Foundation, he supported Baylor Medical School, the Allbritton Art Institute and the Oxford Scholars. He also was financially instrumental in establishing the International School of Law, which became the George Mason Law School.

Besides his son, Allbritton is survived by his wife Barbara and two grandchildren.

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