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Bernard Ridder Jr., 85; Led Newspaper Merger

October 12, 2002|From Associated Press

Bernard H. Ridder Jr., the former publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press who helped create Knight Ridder, the nation's second-largest newspaper group, has died. He was 85.

Ridder, known as "Bernie," who died Thursday of complications from a stroke in San Mateo, Calif., was a key architect of the merger of the Knight and Ridder newspaper groups. The merged entity now operates 32 daily papers with a combined circulation of nearly 4 million.

A sports enthusiast, Ridder also helped to establish the Vikings professional football team in Minnesota.

Bernard Ridder was born and grew up in New York City, where the family newspaper business started more than 125 years ago. He attended Princeton University.

After Navy service in World War II, Ridder became an advertising director of the Duluth Herald and the Duluth News Tribune (which merged in 1982) and was named publisher in 1952.

He was then named publisher in 1958 of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch (which merged in 1985).

He held publisher positions in both cities until 1971 and was president and chief executive of Ridder Publications when it merged with the Knight group in 1974. He sat on the board of the new firm and was chairman of the board from 1979 to 1982.

Ridder was a member of several golf clubs and once served on the executive committee of the U.S. Golf Assn.

His enthusiasm for sports got Ridder Newspapers involved as one of five owners of the Minnesota Vikings in 1961. The partners bought the NFL franchise for $600,000, with Ridder Newspapers owning about a third of the stock.

Ridder served as chairman of the team's board from 1961 to 1977, when the newspaper group's interest in the team was sold.

Ridder is survived by his wife, Jane; sons P. Anthony "Tony" Ridder, chairman and chief executive of San Jose-based Knight Ridder, and Peter Ridder, publisher of Knight Ridder's Charlotte Observer in North Carolina; daughters Laura Evans of Grosse Pointe, Mich., and Robin Lee and Jill Delano Ridder of Northern California; nine grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, Daniel, of Los Angeles.

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