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Bert R. Tiffany, 1926 - 2007

Innovator led Times to record circulation

December 07, 2007|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

Bert R. Tiffany, the retired vice president of circulation for the Los Angeles Times whose innovative strategies helped drive the paper to record levels of readership, died Wednesday at his home in Bonsall, Calif. He was 81.

The cause of death was lung cancer, which was diagnosed in January, his wife, Betty, said Thursday.

Tiffany ran The Times' circulation department for 24 years under publishers Otis Chandler and Tom Johnson.

"Under Bert Tiffany's leadership, The Times reached record highs in both daily and Sunday circulation," Johnson, who also is a former president of CNN, said Thursday.

During Tiffany's tenure, The Times' daily circulation reached 1,136,813 and on Sundays peaked at 1,421,711.

When he retired in December 1988, The Times had the largest home-delivery circulation of any newspaper in the country and ranked fourth in overall weekday circulation. On Sundays, the paper ranked third in the nation.

Johnson said that Tiffany was "a class act in every way. . . . He will be remembered as a thoughtful, kind man who loved his family, his staff, his golf and his newspaper. He was a very special friend to all of us who knew him."

Jack D. Klunder, The Times' current senior vice president for circulation who trained under Tiffany, considered him a mentor and recalled him "as a great leader, a tireless worker, innovative, and one of the most competitive people I have ever known."

He said Tiffany developed a zoned approach to building circulation, aligning sales tactics with distribution networks and carving up the market so that resources could be allocated appropriately to build circulation most valuable to advertisers.

"He never just focused on the total circulation number," Klunder said. "He was obsessed with how the various markets were performing that built up to the total number."

Klunder also said that Tiffany was instrumental in leading the newspaper industry away from independent dealer networks, in which newspapers sold their product to distributors at wholesale prices. Instead, Tiffany favored a system of contracted distributors, which resulted in huge revenue gains for the newspaper and control of the pricing models.

He also launched the first in-house automated telemarketing system and the only news rack manufacturing operation run by a newspaper company.

A native of Los Angeles, Tiffany was born Feb. 17, 1926. He graduated from Alhambra High School and served briefly in the Army Air Forces at the end of World War II.

As a boy, he delivered newspapers for the Alhambra Post-Advocate and returned to work there in the circulation department after the war.

In 1954, he was named circulation manager of the Burbank Daily Review. Two years later, he joined The Times as a district manager in circulation, and was promoted to circulation manager by Chandler in 1964.

In addition to his wife, Tiffany is survived by two daughters from a previous marriage, Linda Diane Carr and Patricia Ann Keller; and four grandchildren.

Memorial services were pending.

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