William Reilly, 70, founder of Summit Business Media L.L.C., the parent company of National Underwriter Life & Health, died Friday after a year-long battle with cancer.
Reilly may be best known for using backing from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, New York, to turn Primedia Inc. into a $1.7 billion media giant in just 10 years.
After leaving Primedia in 1999, Reilly acquired F&W Publishing, Cincinnati, a consumer magazine and education company, then sold the company in 2005.
In 2006, Reilly became chairman and chief executive officer of Summit Business Media, New York.
With backing from Wind Point Partners, Chicago, Reilly’s company acquired Highline Media L.L.C., New York, the owner of National Underwriter, and Pfingsten Publishing L.L.C., Seven Hills, Ohio. Summit Business Media later acquired Judy Diamond Associates, Agent Media, Wicks Business Media, AUS Online and Wiesner Financial Media.
Reilly stepped back from day-to-day operations in 2007, when his cancer was diagnosed. Andrew Goodenough was named president in 2007 and CEO this year.
Goodenough says he and other executives at Summit Business Media worked closely with Reilly to set up the company.
“While we were awed at first by his past accomplishments, he quickly put us at ease,” Goodenough says. “We got to know him as much more than just one of the most successful media executives of all time–he was a Renaissance man, a student of history, books, art–a generous man–and an all-around great guy.”
Reilly grew up in New York and graduated from Notre Dame and Harvard Business School. He served in the armed forces in Europe as a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Early in his career, Reilly worked for W.R. Grace & Company, Columbia, Md., as president of Herman’s Sporting Goods, and as president of Macmillan Inc., New York.
Reilly was a trustee of the University of Notre Dame. He also was a director on the boards of Barnes & Noble Inc., New York; FMC Corp., Philadelphia; Channel 13/WNET, New York; BizBash Media Inc., New York; and Harvard Business School Press, Boston.
A wake will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and again from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Ave., New York.
A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, 980 Park Ave., New York.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Reilly’s name to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center or to the William F. Reilly Technology Center at Cardinal Hayes High School, 650 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451.
Summit Business Media plans to make arrangements “to celebrate [Reilly's] life and his role as founder of Summit,” the company says.