Former ceo and chairman of Doubleday & Company–as well as life trustee of the New York Public Library, long-time trustee of the New York Zoological Society and board member of the American Academy of Rome–John Turner Sargent, Sr., 87, died peacefully at his home in Manhattan on February 5. He “had been in frail condition in recent years after suffering a stroke.”
In partnership with Nelson Doubleday, Sargent led Doubleday’s expansion as a “communications conglomerate” and vertically-integrated publishing enterprise that included book manufacturing, the Literary Guild and Doubleday book clubs, the acquisition of book exporter Feffer & Simons, the 26 Doubleday book shops and more, including radio stations and film production. (One notable movie was 1974’2 The Parallax View, starring Warren Beatty and based Loren Singer’s Doubleday bestseller.)
His family, which includes his son John Sargent, Jr., currently ceo of Macmillan, writes: “One of the most affable, suave, and erudite of publishers in the heyday of the New York publishing scene, Mr. Sargent instilled a close working relationship with a bevy of Doubleday’s powerhouse authors–old and new–from Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Irving Stone, Dwight Eisenhower, Leon Uris, Arthur Hailey, Theodore Roethke, Alex Haley, Stephen King, Gay Talese, and Peter Benchley, along with the agents and executors of the industry’s most envied list of backlist authors. Mr. Sargent was a longtime friend of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and encouraged her to join the firm as an editor in 1978 after she left Viking Press.”
The WSJ writes: “Well-read and urbane, Mr. Sargent was close to many Doubleday authors and threw lavish dinners. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke was a particular friend, and sometimes slept in Mr. Sargent’s bathtub at the conclusion of a bibulous evening.” Sargent recalls his father’s annual “singles only” Christmas Eve parties–co-hosted with Joan Fontaine–for the AP: “A Salvation Army band would play at midnight and everybody would sing Christmas carols. And you had to be single. There was no flexibility in that rule.” More importantly, he tells Doubleday colleagues that “the company was in his heart for over 60 years. The Doubleday anniversary paperweight was still on his desk the day he died.”
There will be a private service in Boston on Friday and a memorial celebration honoring Mr. Sargent’s life at a date to be determined in March in New York City.
The family asks that those wishing to make contributions in Mr. Sargent’s memory direct them to the New York Public Library or the Food Pantry and Shelter ministry administered by St. Bart’s church.