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PASSINGS: Reinhard Mohn, Aengus Finucane

Reinhard Mohn, longtime head of media company Bertelsmann AG, dies at 88; Aengus Finucane, Irish priest who founded Concern charity, dies at 77

October 07, 2009
  • Concern Worldwide
Concern Worldwide (kr3h7nc20091006164439 )

Reinhard Mohn

Longtime media mogul

Reinhard Mohn, 88, who helped transform media group Bertelsmann AG from a German book publisher into an international media company, died Saturday, the firm announced.

Mohn, together with his wife, helped steer the company into a wide array of publishing -- including the acquisition of U.S.-based Random House -- music and other ventures.

He spent 45 years with the company and most recently served as honorary chairman of its supervisory board.

Mohn was born June 29, 1921, in Guetersloh, Germany. After returning from a U.S. prisoner of war camp and beginning an apprenticeship in book retailing, Mohn took over the management of his family's printing and publishing business, C. Bertelsmann Verlag, in 1947.

He expanded the operation by embracing sales representatives and catalogs, and the company grew to incorporate magazine publishing, television broadcasting and other enterprises.

In 1971, Mohn helped oversee the family-owned company's transformation into a stock corporation and become chairman and chief executive. In 1977, he established the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation.

He retired from the company in 1981 but remained on Bertelsmann's supervisory board -- the German equivalent of a U.S. board of directors -- for a decade.

Bertelsmann's assets include book publisher Random House, TV broadcaster RTL, a majority stake in magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr, and the Direct Group book and media clubs.

Bertelsmann at one point held a 50% stake in the music company Sony BMG. It sold the U.S. portion of the Direct Group book club in 2008.

Though headquartered in Germany, Bertelsmann's 106,000 employees are scattered across its divisions in more than 50 countries. The company is a privately held stock corporation that is owned by the Mohn family with 23.1% and the Bertelsmann Foundation with 76.9%.

Aengus Finucane

Irish priest founded global aid charity

Father Aengus Finucane, 77, a Roman Catholic missionary and Irish aid pioneer with theConcern charity, died Tuesday at the Spiritan Fathers' residence for retired priests in Dublin after a short, unspecified illness, the charity announced.

Finucane, who was born in the western Irish city of Limerick, was a priest in the Spiritan Fathers order in Nigeria during that country's 1967-70 civil war with the breakaway state of Biafra. Determined to combat famine as the Nigerian military crushed the rebellion, he coordinated with Dublin-based workers to channel aid to Biafra through its often-bombed airstrip and by cargo ship.

Finucane later recalled how the Nigerian air force bombed the airstrip every day, but his parishioners "lined up in the forest with truckloads of gravel to fill the holes in the runway."

That aid effort, initially known as Concern Africa, shortened its name to Concern in 1970 as it gained ambitions to provide food, medical support and education in many of the world's poorest countries.

Finucane became Concern's field director in Bangladesh in 1972 after its war of independence from Pakistan. Tours of duty in Thailand, the killing fields of Cambodia and Idi Amin's murderous Uganda followed.

Finucane served as the charity's chief executive from 1981 to 1997 and since then as its honorary president responsible for spearheading fundraising in the United States.

His credo, oft-repeated when stumping for donors, was: "We have a strong inclination to do evil -- and you have to fight like hell to do any good."

During Finucane's time as chief executive, Concern expanded aid work into 11 countries and dramatically increased its fundraising.

-- times staff and wire reports

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