Randolph Apperson Hearst, the billionaire newspaper heir who became known worldwide when his daughter Patricia was kidnapped by a revolutionary group in 1974, died in a New York hospital yesterday after a stroke. He was 85.
The last surviving son of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, Hearst began work as a cub reporter covering cops, courts and City Hall on the Hearst- owned Call-Bulletinin San Francisco. He eventually served from 1973 to 1996 as chairman of Hearst Corp.
But Hearst became known around the world when the Symbionese Liberation Armykidnapped his 19-year-old daughter from her Berkeley apartment and began issuing virulent communiques attacking her family.
Throughout that ordeal, Hearst -- then editor and president of the San Francisco Examiner -- left his Hillsborough mansion regularly to face the battery of television cameras outside his front door, calmly discussing the latest communique the family had received from the SLA.
When the SLA demanded that the Hearsts give millions of dollars in free food to California's poor, Hearst pledged $2 million to the People in Need giveaway program. The first distribution was marred by confusion and violence in San Francisco, but eventually more than 90,000 bags and cartons of food were distributed.
"Randy was the center of calm in a very turbulent period," said his nephew, William Randolph Hearst III, who visited his uncle often during the months after the kidnapping.
Although Hearst presented a resolute face to the public, friends and acquaintances said the kidnapping had placed a terrible strain on him.
"He never came into the paper again on a day-to-day basis," said Tom Eastham, former executive editor of the Examiner who was redesigning the paper with Hearst when the kidnapping occurred.
"The SLA made personal attacks on him -- obviously it was harrowing for him as a parent," Eastham said.
After her 57-day captivity in a closet, Patricia Hearst emerged to take the name "Tania" and denounce her family.
She took part in a San Francisco bank robbery, was caught by authorities in 1975, and was tried and convicted, serving 21 months in prison.
Six SLA members died in a May 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police when tear gas canisters fired by officers set the SLA hideout on fire.
After her arrest, Patricia Hearst renounced her captors and in 1979 married an ex-San Francisco police officer, Bernard Shaw, her former bodyguard. She has two children and lives in a wealthy Connecticut suburb.
After her arrest and trial, media focus on the family slowly faded, and her father returned to the relatively private life he had led before.
Recently, Forbes Magazine set Randolph Hearst's wealth at $1.8 billion and listed him as No. 150 of the 400 wealthiest people in the country. But acquaintances said that for all his riches and his role for many years as the family patriarch, Hearst often seemed down to earth.
"He was a very bright, thoughtful, caring guy," said William Coblentz, Hearst's attorney and friend for many years. "He was self-effacing, devoid of prejudice, and he cared for people. He had a desire to listen -- which a lot of people in his position do not have."
But Coblentz also said he found him "to be a man who sold himself short. I think he felt he didn't live up to the expectations of his father -- whatever they were. I think he felt he wasn't as smart as he should be -- which was absolutely untrue."
Hearst's mother, Millicent, gave birth to him and his twin brother, David, on Dec. 2, 1915, in New York City. David Hearst died in 1986.
Inevitably, the towering shadow of his father stretched over Randolph Hearst's life.
When William Randolph Hearst -- the inspiration for the powerful Orson Welles movie "Citizen Kane" -- died in 1951, he did not leave any of his five sons in charge of the media empire he had shaped out of the mining and real estate fortune left to him by his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
Instead, the 88-year-old Hearst left his vast holdings under the stewardship of professional managers: Hearst family members were given five of the 13 seats on the board of trustees running Hearst Corp. The trusts creating this arrangement are to remain in effect until the death of the last grandchild alive when Hearst died. That is expected about 2035.
"When you look at the trusts Randy's father established, the running of the company was left to outsiders because his father didn't have confidence in his sons," Coblentz said.
He described Randolph Hearst as "being content to let people not associated with the family run the company because they did so well," vastly increasing and diversifying the corporation's holdings.
Today, Hearst Corp. owns or manages 27 TV stations, 16 magazines, 12 daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, and several cable enterprises.
It also has huge real estate holdings, including timber and agricultural operations in California and commercial properties in New York City and San Francisco. Forbes estimated the corporation's 1999 revenues at $4.4 billion.
Throughout his career, Randolph Hearst held many positions within the corporation. At the time of his death, he was president of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
"Randy Hearst shared his father's strong vision and his abiding belief in the media business," said Frank A. Bennack Jr., president and chief executive officer of Hearst Corp.
In the late 1930s, Hearst became an assistant to the publisher on one of the family's newspapers, the Atlanta Georgian. In 1938 he married Catherine Campbell of Atlanta.
After the family sold the Atlanta paper, Hearst moved to the Call-Bulletin in San Francisco in 1940, taking a job similar to the one he held in Atlanta. In the mid-'30s, he had worked as a young reporter at the Call-Bulletin.
In 1942, Hearst, an accomplished pilot, interrupted his newspaper career to take a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army's Air Transport Command. He rose to the rank of captain.
William Randolph Hearst III said some of his earliest memories of his uncle included the impression of him as a physically daring man who had been a flight instructor during World War II.
"I remember my father (the late William Randolph Hearst Jr.) told me, 'Your uncle could have been a professional pilot.' " William Randolph Hearst III said he had been told that sometime during World War II, his uncle had been piloting a plane in the United States, and it ran into trouble.
"He was able to put it down somewhere in a cornfield, and everyone in the plane walked away," his nephew said.
After his discharge from the Army, Hearst worked as an associate publisher at theOakland Post-Enquirer and in 1947 returned to the Call-Bulletin as executive editor. Three years later, he became publisher of the paper at age 34.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he held several jobs in Hearst Publishing Co., and in 1965, he became both chairman of the executive committee of Hearst Corp. and one of its directors. In the early 1970s. he headed the Examiner and lived in Hillsborough.
Raul Ramirez, now news director of KQED in San Francisco, remembers how Hearst hired him away from the Washington Post to be a reporter on the Examiner.
At the time, Hearst's daughter was still being held by the SLA, which sent him tape recordings harshly attacking his family and his newspaper.
"I remember he pointed to his window and said, 'There is a city out there that I didn't know existed, and we need people like you to help me see it better,' " said Ramirez, who joined KQED in 1991. "I saw him as a very concerned and troubled father who had heard those taped observations that were foreign to him, but in some way they resonated with him."
In his private life, Hearst involved himself in many civic groups, sitting on the boards of several charities.
Although educated at some of the country's best private schools -- he graduated from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and attended Harvard University -- Hearst maintained an intense interest in publiceducation. He created about 40 programs designed to improve education, including attempts to increase computer training and early childhood curriculum.
"Randy gave a lot of money to school systems in California," said William Randolph Hearst III, who was the Examiner's publisher from 1984 to 1994 and today is a venture capitalist. "I think Randy was interested in finding ways of introducing the benefits of wealthy school districts to kids" without such benefits. "He got interested in the use of computers in the schools."
When he was relaxing, one of Hearst's favorite spots was Wyntoon, the Hearst family estate on thousands of acres of forested land near Mount Shasta. Often Jack Signorello, a longtime Hearst employee who acted as Hearst's driver and companion on many trips, would go to Wyntoon with him.
"He liked to get out by himself and think things over, I guess," said Signorello, who hunted deer on the Hearst land at San Simeon, caught sailfish in Mexico and went duck hunting in Marysville with Hearst. "Every time he caught a fish, he'd holler out, 'I got one, Jack!' "
Earlier this year, Hearst bought the Vanderbilt mansion in Manalapan, Fla., for $29.87 million from Mel Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers professional basketball team.
Hearst and his first wife, Catherine, were divorced in 1982. She died last year. He married Maria Scruggs later that year, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1986. He married his third wife, Veronica de Uribe, in 1987.
Up to the last, Hearst remained interested in the business workings and content of his family's newspaper holdings.
"Randy called up regularly to complain about the size of the stock type in the business section or to talk about politics," said Phil Bronstein, former Examiner executive editor.
"He always struck me as being a kind person, and he had a keen interest in what was in the paper," said Bronstein, who became executive editor of The Chronicle after Hearst Corp. bought it. "Randy clearly paid attention to what was going on in the world."
Along with his wife, Veronica, and daughter Patricia Campbell Hearst Shaw, he is survived by his four other daughters: Catherine Hearst, Virginia Anne Hearst Randt, Anne Randolph Hearst and Victoria Veronica Hearst.
Family members said a funeral will be held tomorrow in New York City. Hearst's body will be brought to California on Thursday for burial in the family plot at Colma.