By: The Associated Press and E&P Staff
David Kruidenier, a former Des Moines Register chief executive officer and longtime central Iowa civic leader, has died of pneumonia. He was 84 years old.
Kruidenier is a native of Des Moines who began his newspaper career at the Register in 1952. Under his leadership, the Register won three of its 15 Pulitzer Prizes.
In 1985, he presided over the sale of the paper, which was started by his family in 1903. It was sold to Gannett Company.
In the 1970s, Kruidenier led a fundraising effort that culminated in the construction of the Des Moines Civic Center.
He also was involved in numerous efforts to promote art and music in the city.
Kruidenier served as a bomber navigator in the Pacific Theater during World War Two and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Register reported today: “Beyond the family businesses, Kruidenier’s leadership and personal philanthropy in support of music and the visual arts were essential elements in Des Moines’ success in the development and expansion of the Des Moines Art Center and in the construction of the Des Moines Civic Center.”
It also recounted these highlights during the tumultuous 1980s:
? The closing in 1982, after 75 years of publication, of the afternoon Des Moines Tribune. The move was blamed on slumping circulation and poor economic conditions. It cost the jobs of 200 persons but saved the company an estimated $4 million in annual payroll.
? An offer, made in 1984, by two top company executives, President Michael Gartner and Publisher Gary Gerlach along with two Des Moines businessmen and Dow Jones Co., to purchase the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company.
The $112 million offer was rejected and Kruidenier placed Gartner and Gerlach on paid leave while he battled to stave off the tide of discontent from stockholders, many of them descendants of the Cowles family, who were unhappy at the low return on their stock investment.
? The sale, in 1985, of The Des Moines Register for about $200 million to Gannett Co. The sale included three smaller newspapers, two in Iowa. Other communications companies purchased broadcast stations owned by the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company. The sale of company assets brought about $345 million.
On July 1, 1985, the day Des Moines Register and Tribune Company stockholders approved the sale of the firm, Kruidenier noted that the action marked the ending of a partnership between the Cowles family, Des Moines and the state of Iowa that had lasted 82 years.
“The state of Iowa is a better place today because of The Register,” said Kruidenier on that occasion.