Sidney Harman (born 4 August 1918) is a US tycoon and husband of pro-Israel congresswoman Jane Harman (who has been under FBI and Department of Justice investigation on suspicion of spying for Israel). He is the Chairman Emeritus of Harman International Industries and as of of August 2010, the owner of Newsweek. Harman's fortune is estimated at $500 million by Forbes, which he made in the 1950s with his partner Bernard Kardon with whom he invented the stereo receiver. Their company Harman/Kardon is today part of Harman International. He also served as the United States Under Secretary of Commerce between 1977-78.
Harman's purchase of the money losing publication has generated much speculation. He bought it from the Washington Post Company for a reported price of price of $1 plus about $50 million in liabilities. In the New York Times Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes:
- What would possess a 92-year-old man with virtually no experience in publishing to embark on a business venture that lost nearly $30 million last year? And what, precisely, will Mr. Harman do with Newsweek once he gets it? [...] Some wonder aloud if Newsweek will be [Jane] Harman’s exit strategy from Congress. Still others view the deal as a favor to Donald E. Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Company, Newsweek’s current owner — a kind of gentleman’s agreement between two Washington power families.
Mr. Jane Harman's megaphone
Daily Beast's Jacob Bernstein, who notes the stereo tycoon's reputation as 'Mr. Jane Harman', writes:
- And many are already predicting the newly minted media mogul may not just be a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. "He's somebody who cares about public policy, likes being 'in it' and this will give him a vehicle," says [Walter] Pincus, who had at least a few conversations with Harman about the magazine over the course of the sale. "I don't think this is a matter of power. I think this is a matter of being heard. He really has views on public policy and rather than getting other people to do it, I think he may wind up writing a column in the magazine himself."
Jane's exit strategy
Forbes magazine reports:
- there is, apparently, a plan for who will eventually run it: Harman’s wife, Rep. Jane Harman, says a California political operative. “Jane Harman would like to control Newsweek. She is interested in exiting Congress and Newsweek would be a perch for her to be a major player,” says the source. Harman has served in the House for 17 years. If House Democrats lose as many seats this November as polls predict, her new minority status could certainly accelerate such a decision.
- Harman is the second richest House member and chairs its Homeland Security Subcommittee. Republicans respect Harman’s hawkish national security views.
Conflict of Interests
Jack Shafer of Slate has drawn attention to the conflict of interest that might arise form Harman's wife making policy while he runs an influential media outlet. In his 'unsolicited advice' column, Shafer asks Harman:
- if you can't see the problem of your spouse making policy while you make a magazine, I can't explain it to you, other than to say you don't want Jane to be to you what Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, R-Conn., was to Henry R. Luce.
- Although Jane Harman was accomplished before she married you in 1980, her political career is partly of your making. According to the New York Times, much of the $16 million she spent in her disastrous 1998 campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in California was "family money." So it's not enough for you to have said of Jane, "I've never told her how to run the government and she's never told me how to run the business."
- Aspen Institute - member of board of trustees
- Newsweek - owner
- Jane Harman - husband
- Council on Foreign Relations - member
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences - fellow
- Timothy Burger, "Exclusive: Feds Probe a Top Democrat's Relationship with AIPAC", Time, 10 October 2006
- Jeff Stein, "Sources: Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC", CQ Politics, 19 April 2009
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg, No Opportunity Unexplored at 92, New York Times, 15 August 2010
- Jacob Bernstein, Newsweek's New Owner: The 92-Year-Old Wunderkind, The Daily Beast, 4 August 2010
- Is Newsweek Jane Harman’s “Exit Strategy”?, Newsweek, 5 August 2010
- Jack Shafer, Unsolicited Advice for Sidney Harman, Slate, 5 August 2010