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William Ziff, tech media pioneer, dies at 76

Former head of the Ziff-Davis publishing empire and an influence on many of today's industry leaders, dies of cancer.

Publishing magnate William B. Ziff Jr., the former leader of the Ziff-Davis publishing empire and a technology media pioneer, died Saturday at age 76.

Ziff, who died from prostate cancer at his home in Pawling, N.Y., is considered the father of technology media, and was an influence on many of today's leaders in the industry.

"For me, Bill was all about intellectual honesty. His intellect and fearless curiosity is why I loved working for him so much," said Joseph Gillespie, executive vice president of CNET Networks (the publisher of CNET Gillespie managed sales and marketing at Ziff-Davis for 15 years under Ziff.

Ziff built a media empire out of Ziff-Davis, the publishing firm his father, William B. Ziff Sr., founded with Bernard G. Davis in 1927. From 1955 to 1970, Ziff added such popular publications as Car & Driver, Yachting, Popular Photography, Backpacker, and Modern Bride to the company's portfolio.

Under Ziff's leadership in the 1980s, Ziff-Davis launched Computer Gaming World, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Expert Gamer, PC/Computing, PC Week and what eventually became ZDNet (now owned by CNET Networks). The company also acquired PC Magazine in 1982.

Ziff sold 95 percent of his family's share in Ziff-Davis for $1.4 billion in 1994. He is survived by his wife, Tamsen Ann, their sons, Daniel, Dirk and Robert, who currently run the financial firm Ziff Brothers Investments, and four grandchildren.

A spokesman for the Ziff family confirmed news of Ziff's death, which was first reported on Sunday by blogger Colin Crawford.