Deceased , Modern




1940 - 2003

Bernard Goldhirsh started a newsletter publishing business in his basement and eventually became founder of several publications.

  • Founder of SAIL Magazine
  • Founder of Inc. Magazine
  • Founder of Motorboat Magazine
  • Founder of Marine Business Trade Journal


Mr. Goldhirsh’s obituary, The New York Times, July 3, 2003, by Douglas Martin:

Bernard Goldhirsh, 63, Magazine Innovator Who Started Inc.

Bernard A. Goldhirsh, who started a newsletter-publishing business in his basement that grew into Inc. magazine, one of the first publications to profit by aiming at owners of small businesses, died on Sunday in Boston. He was 63.

Mr. Goldhirsh’s success in magazines began with Sail, devoted to the practical interests of owners of small sailboats, and quickly grew to include other nautical periodicals. But he found that his passion for sailing was not enough to deal with the business problems he encountered.

It dawned on him that other business people faced similar challenges, from bank financing to obtaining office supplies, and he started Inc. in 1979 to help them. Its success was evident from the imitators who have addressed the same market.

His intended readers were more broadly defined than those of many other start-up magazines of the time, which went after distinct groups like joggers, apartment dwellers or roller skaters. Also, small businesses were growing as a proportion of the overall economy.

”He found exactly the right niche and exploited it beautifully,” Robert Gardner, senior vice president of the Magazine Publishers Association at the time, told The Christian Science Monitor in 1980.

Mr. Goldhirsh was born in Brooklyn on March 22, 1940. He graduated in 1961 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he learned to sail on the Charles River. He taught at a private school in Cambridge, Mass., before leading a group of 12 paying students on a sailing expedition in the Caribbean.

He then worked as an inventor for Northrup Aviation and Polaroid, and taught celestial navigation to sailors. He noticed that sailors had little practical information on their sport, and in 1967 he began publishing an annual directory comparing various sailboat designs, The New York Times reported in 1979.

He also began publishing 16-page booklets dealing with practical questions like how to handle a boat in a storm. The publications were popular, and within two years advertisers were knocking on his door, The Times reported.

By January 1970, Mr. Goldhirsh had borrowed $20,000 from friends and put out the first issue of Sail. In 1973, he introduced Motorboat, a how-to magazine for boat owners. In 1978, he started Marine Business, a trade journal for boat-equipment makers.

”I had no publishing background, and it was all ‘figure it out as you go,’ ” Mr. Goldhirsh said in an interview with The Associated Press in 1985. ”I found myself managing a small, growing company. I didn’t know anything about managing a company.”

So he decided to publish the kind of how-to business magazine he felt he needed. That magazine, Inc., was aimed at owners of companies with annual sales of $1 million to $25 million.

Bolstered by a survey of business people that suggested there would be interest, he sold his nautical magazines for more than $10 million to start it.

Within two years, Inc. was profitable, and by 2000, when he sold it for an estimated $200 million, circulation was around 650,000. He gave 10 percent of the proceeds to his employees, to whom he had also freely lent his yacht. His easy personal style emerged, among other ways, through his penchant for going sockless and hiding in the shadows even at banquets at which he was being honored

In 1981, he published High Technology, which he sold in 1987. In 1986, he bought Dun’s Review, said to be the nation’s oldest continuously published business publication, and renamed it Business Month. It closed in 1990. He also started, bought, sold and closed other magazines.

Additional Information

From Massachusetts General Hospital’s website:

The Goldhirsh Foundation

Bernard A. Goldhirsh established the Goldhirsh Foundation in 2000, shortly after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. As the founding publisher of such hugely successful magazines as Sail and Inc., Bernard brought vision and verve to his distinguished career in publishing and helped transform America’s perception of entrepreneurship.

His was the consummate entrepreneurial spirit, and the foundation brings his creative drive to philanthropy.

Bernard lived courageously with cancer for three years. Since his death in 2003, the Board of Directors of the Goldhirsh Foundation, which includes his two children, has shaped a grant-making program that reflects Bernard’s values and entrepreneurial spirit.

Much of its annual grant-making funds innovative research that translates into improved outcomes for patients with malignant brain tumors. Since 2001, the foundation has awarded $16.4 million in competitive grants to 59 scientists, including more than $1.2 million to researchers at Mass General.

Faithful to the spirit of its founder, the Goldhirsh Foundation is helping to propel development of effective treatments for this lethal disease.

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