Syd Silverman, the former publisher and owner of Variety, died of a sudden illness in Boca Raton, Fla., on Sunday. He was 85.
Silverman inherited the role of publisher in 1950 and held that title until 1987, when he sold the paper. During his years at Variety, he made sure the coverage reflected the many changes in the entertainment industry, including the revolutions in cable and pay-TV, independent film pre-sales, financial interest and syndication roles for TV programs, satellite TV, home video, and digital media.
His grandfather, Sime Silverman, founded Variety in 1905 and started Daily Variety in 1933. After his death that year, son Sidne became publisher. Syd Silverman took over in 1950 upon his father’s death. Since Syd was only 18 at the time, his legal guardian Harold Erichs oversaw Variety Inc., until 1956.
After graduating from Princeton University in 1954 and joining the ROTC as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Silverman began work as publisher and owner of Variety Inc., and its two showbiz trade papers — the weekly Variety based in New York and its daily counterpart in Hollywood. He carried on his grandfather’s insistence that advertisers should never influence coverage and that journalists be allowed to put their personal stamp on stories.
Silverman maintained Variety’s “slanguage,” including words like “boffo,” “ozoner,” and “baloney,” that played to Hollywood’s insular nature and that made Variety a fun read.
In 1987, he organized the sale of Variety to Cahners Publishing, a subsidiary of Reed International of the U.K., in 1987. It was the first time that the publication was run by a company outside the Silverman family. In 2012, Penske Media Corporation became only the third owner of Variety in its long history.
In addition to his publishing business, Silverman was a lifelong automobile racing enthusiast. He was twice an owner and investor in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, one of the largest historic racing groups in the U.S. He was a noted collector and driver of historic racing cars, and focused his publishing ingenuity to develop Vintage Motorsport into the leading magazine in the hobby.
Silverman was the only child of Sidne and Marie, a vaudevillian, musical-comedy star, and dancer. He grew up in Harrison, N.Y. His parents both died by the time he was 18, leaving him as the sole heir to the publications.
Silverman is survived by his second wife, Dr. Joan Hoffman; his four children, Marie, Michael, Mark, and Matthew; and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Jan McNally Silverman, died in 1997.