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Publisher Bernard H. Ridder Dies

October 11, 2002

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Bernard H. Ridder Jr., a former St. Paul Pioneer Press publisher who helped create Knight Ridder, the nation’s second-largest newspaper group, died Thursday. He was 85 and died in San Mateo, Calif., of complications from a stroke.

Ridder, known as ``Bernie,″ was also a sports enthusiast who helped bring the Vikings professional football team to Minnesota.

He was a key architect of the merger of the Knight and Ridder newspaper groups, which now operate 32 daily papers with a combined circulation of nearly 4 million.

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

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Ridder was 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 was on the board of the new firm and was chairman of the board from 1979 to 1982.

Ridder was also on The Associated Press board of directors.

Ridder’s son P. Anthony ``Tony″ Ridder, chairman and chief executive of San Jose, Calif.-based Knight Ridder, said his father had a deep sense of what was ethical and what was not.

``He was adamant that his sportswriters not accept free travel (once a common practice) from teams they covered. It would have been unethical,″ Ridder said.

Another son, Peter, publisher of Knight Ridder’s Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, said that if ``there is one thing he instilled in me, it was to be honest. If you don’t know the answer, say so.″

Ridder was a member of several golf clubs and once served on the executive committee of the U.S. Golf Association. His enthusiasm for sports got Ridder Newspapers involved as one of five owners of the Vikings who bought a franchise from the NFL in 1961 for $600,000. The company owned about a third of the stock of the team, and Ridder served as chairman of the team’s board from 1961 to 1977, when its interest in the team was sold.

In addition to his sons, Ridder is survived by his wife, Jane; a brother; three daughters; nine grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren.

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