Jonathan E. Thackeray, former Hearst VP, legal counsel, dies at 83
Jonathan E. Thackeray, former vice president and general counsel of Hearst, who spent much of his career interpreting antitrust law and its impact on the media, died May 2 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He was 83.
Thackeray, a former Darien resident, joined Hearst in 1993 as the company faced a changing media landscape and expanded its investment in digital media, after serving as the company’s outside counsel at the Cleveland law firm of BakerHostetler. He retired from Hearst in 2003, but continued to serve as a legal consultant at the company.
“Jon’s decade of legal leadership at Hearst continues to resonate all these years later,” said Steven R. Swartz, president and chief executive officer of Hearst. “He played a key role in our evolution as a leading media, information and services company. We extend our condolences to Jon’s family.”
While serving Hearst, Thackeray provided counsel on the purchase of the San Francisco Chronicle and the sale of the San Francisco Examiner, which were both completed in 2000.
His legal counsel was noteworthy in the Argyle Television merger in 1997 that formed Hearst-Argyle Television, a 12-station company reaching then-approximately 11.6 percent of U.S. television households. It is now known as Hearst Television, which owns and operates 33 television and two radio stations across the U.S., reaching more than 21 million American television households.
“Jon’s impeccable integrity and gift for strategic legal positioning were immensely valued at Hearst,” said Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and former chief executive officer of Hearst.
“His impressive legal career included playing a significant role in many of Hearst’s key milestones and acquisitions. Not only will he be remembered for his contributions to Hearst, but he will be recalled as a significant player in his advocacy for the Newspaper Preservation Act that helped extend the life of competing daily newspapers in some American cities for decades.”
Before joining Hearst, Thackeray spent 28 years with BakerHostetler, managing the firm’s litigation group.
In 1962, he graduated first in his class from both Officer Candidate School and the Naval Justice School. Thackeray became a legal officer until he was released from active duty as a lieutenant in 1965. During his time serving, he was mostly at posts in Japan, including aboard the USS Coral Sea and the Commander Destroyer Flotilla One.
Thackeray graduated from Harvard College in 1958 and from Harvard Law School in 1961 after receiving a full academic scholarship. There, he was piano accompanist of the Harvard Glee Club. Thackeray was also a gifted pianist and chamber music performer at Harvard.
He returned to performing as a classical pianist in his retirement in venues near his home in Darien, including playing with the Darien Community Association’s Duo Piano Group.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra; his four children, Jennifer, Sara, Amy and Jonathan; his five grandchildren, Mackenzie, Keaton, Matthew, Kayla and Taylor; and his sister Ellie.
“Jon had strong legal skills and was an incredibly kind man,” said Eve Burton, executive vice president and chief legal officer of Hearst. “His strong moral compass guided Hearst successfully for many years. We will miss his guiding light.”
A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Donations can be made to the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, 1414 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10019.