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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 08/16/2010

A Harman, but not Jane, may inherit Newsweek

By Jeff Stein

Sidney Harman, the 92-year-old technology titan who recently bought Newsweek from The Washington Post Co., says the future leadership of the weekly could include his children, throwing cold water on speculation that his wife, Jane, the chairman of an important congressional intelligence committee, will leave Capitol Hill to run it.

“All my children are ‘interested’ -- how could they not be?," Harman said in answer to a query over the weekend. "Of them, several have indicated active interest.”

“I encourage it,” added Harman, whose pioneering work in audio electronics evolved into military sales, “but I have never believed in or practiced hegemony. They earn it -- they don't simply inherit it. Nor do I assume that they will succeed me.”

Responding to an unstated question about his age, the nonagenarian said, “I am obliged to develop a succession plan early -- and I will."

It will not include Jane, he added emphatically Monday.

"She will have no role -- none at all -- at Newsweek," he said.

The Harmans have two children, in addition to four from their previous marriages.

One of them, Daniel, an MBA candidate at Columbia with an interest in marketing, has “visited Newsweek with his dad a couple of times,” a staffer at the magazine told SpyTalk.

Liberal bloggers have been stirred up by Harman's purchase of Newsweek, particularly by the prospect that his wife, the veteran Californian Democrat who chairs the House homeland security subcommittee on intelligence, would play an influential role at the magazine.

Forbes last week quoted an anonymous “California political operative” as saying “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.”

The congresswoman seemed to leave the open the door to such a possibility by declining to issue a Sherman-esque denial of such a possibility last week. Instead, her office provided the same demurral she had issued when her husband’s purchase of Newsweek was announced Aug. 2.

“Sidney was quoted recently as saying: ‘I don't tell Jane how to vote and she doesn't tell me how to run my business.’ That's our rule and we stick to it. Of course I am proud of his long and successful career and believe that Newsweek and its enormously talented workforce will be in good and caring hands,” Harman said.

A Newsweek staffer who is close to the Harmans pooh-poohed the notion that the 65-year-old congresswoman, who is cruising toward re-election to a ninth term, would resign her seat.

“I don’t think Jane would ever be involved in it,” he said.

“I think Sidney’s too smart for that. He’s setting it up for the kids, a trustee person and then the kids . . . To the best to my knowledge, the idea Jane would somehow be involved is a complete red herring. He doesn’t want it and I don’t think she wants it.”

It would certainly be an unwanted headache for the the struggling magazine's staff.

In 2005, Harman tried to dissuade The New York Times from exposing the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Both Harmans have long been an influential players in national security circles, particularly in their ardent advocacy for Israel.

In 1982, Sidney Harman was also a major force behind the creation of Business Executives for National Security, or BENS, chairing its executive committee and contributing $1 million over the years, according to Tim Shorrock, author of "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing."

"Originally, it was a kind of liberal alternative to the hawkish business organizations that flourished during the Cold War, and its early efforts focused on arms treaties," Shorrock wrote last week in The Daily Beast. "But it has evolved into a full-time consultant to the Pentagon on business practices, functioning as a liaison between government and industry."

BENS co-founder Stanley Weiss, who urged the Bush administration to overthrow Saddam Hussein after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, told Shorrock that the organization's programs are aimed at "helping the country deal with the very bloated element of the miltary-industrial-congressional complex."

The Harman's first child, meanwhile, seems cast in his father's mold.

In 2004, according to his Linked-in page, Daniel Harman founded Harman Motive, “an automotive performance accessories business in 2004.” He said he “grew company to $3 million in sales in 5 years with a focus on growing international sales and branding and manufacturing private label performance products.”

“My goal is to further my business education (Columbia MBA),” he added, “and apply my practical and real-world experience to cutting edge technology and new media businesses.”

By Jeff Stein  | August 16, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Financial/business, Intelligence, Media  
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