Media mogul Mark Vittert shuns the media
Gateway Journalism Review - Media mogul Mark Vittert shuns the media
Gateway Journalism Review
Media mogul Mark Vittert
shuns the media
Mark Vittert, who may be the richest, most influential journalist in St. Louis, won't answer journalists' questions.
As a result, he
is St. Louis' mystery media mogul.
Vittert, now 64, was part owner of the Riverfront Times.
helped start the
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St. Louis Business Journal
and similar publications in other cities.
Vittert still owns part of the Business Journal and writes columns for it, he was an original panelist on the Donnybrook television show on Channel 9, and is on the board of directors of Lee Enterprises, owner of dozens of newspapers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Suburban Journals.
In years past, Vittert
was a sought-after speaker at local events.
Martin Duggan, formerly with the Globe-Democrat and longtime moderator of the Donnybrook show, called Vittert, "The most knowledgeable person I know in the newspaper business."
Ray Hartmann who partnered with Vittert at the Riverfront Times and now St. Louis Magazine, said, "He's a big name in the media but a very private guy . . . I don't give out his phone number.
Some of what the public knows about Vittert
goes back to 1971 when he
was written up as a 22-year old in a piece titled "A Self-Made Millionaire.
After graduating from DePauw University
sold a marketing firm he
helped create to Playboy Magazine
for $1.5 million.
It listed students at hundreds of universities so that businesses could connect with them to sell their goods and services.
became a national personality as the news media jumped on the story, even mentioning that he
wore no socks.
He was quoted in Time Magazine as saying: "I wanted to be the youngest person in American history to have founded a company and sold it for more than a million dollars.
appeared on "What's My Line.
liked the attention.
To back up a bit, when he
was 12 his
dad, the late businessman Alvin Vittert, urged him to research firms that were successful and had potential, even driving Mark
to interview their officials.
As a teen he
spent a summer going door-to-door offering to stencil the addresses of homes on curbstones for a dollar.
"I try to be real quiet" in going after business opportunities, Vittert
The Globe had reported that Vittert
was considering a run for Congress in 1976 as a Republican, but that never happened.
continued pursuing business possibilities but didn't need an office, just a legal pad that he
used to list what he
needed to do each day.
In 1977 Vittert became a partner with Hartmann in launching the Riverfront Times, an alternative weekly newspaper.
Their 60-40 partnership (Vittert with 40 percent) lasted 21 years until the RFT was sold in 1998 for several million; the actual figure was never disclosed.
They then became partners in St. Louis Magazine
, which had been a money-loser but has now prospered as a glitzy publication aimed at an upscale audience.
In 1994 Vittert pushed a campaign to have his friend Jackie Smith, tight end for the former St. Louis Cardinals, be inducted in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame.
Also that year, Post-Dispatch columnist Jerry Berger wrote that Vittert and Andrew E. Newman were among the wealthiest St. Louisans, each worth more than $10 million.
In 1980 Newman, and Vittert started the St. Louis Business Journal and then similar weeklies in several other cities.
Vittert's former editor of the St. Louis Business Journal, Donald Keough, had gone to Kansas City to help start a business journal there that became part of American City Business Journals.
About that time, Vittert joined the board of directors of Lee Enterprises, a chain of smaller newspapers.
Even the compensation for Lee directors, which for Vittert
had been about $100,000 a year, has been reduced over the last few years.
Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan is a close friend of Vittert and the two take boat trips each year.
McClellan declined to discuss Vittert
, saying conversations they have are private.
And Lo, Vittert
wasn't agreeing to an interview, he
just wanted to be respectful in returning a phone call.
In a brief chat, he
explained with a chuckle that he
wore no socks after college because he
had no laundry service at an apartment as he
did in college.
son Leland is called "Lucky" because nurses at the hospital where he
was born called him that when he
survived possibly being strangled by the umbilical cord.
Lucky, at age 11, flew a plane from the U.S. to Paris, accompanied by an adult pilot.
Now he is a correspondent for Fox News, stationed in Jerusalem.
said I should write anything I wanted, but he
would not cooperate and complain.
I wondered how Vittert
would explain those bonuses?
Another question: Was he
instrumental in getting Lee to buy Pulitzer
at top dollar when now it's not even worth selling?
And what does he
think the future is for newspapers?
Media mogul Mark Vittert
shuns the media