Batten dies at 82

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Frank Batten Sr., the former chairman of Landmark Communications and one of the state’s most prolific philanthropists, died Thursday morning in Norfolk after a series of illnesses, according to The Virginian-Pilot

Under Batten, Landmark became one of the largest privately held media companies in the country. It employed more than 10,000 people and had revenues close to $2 billion, according to the Pilot. Batten started working as a copy boy at the Pilot, becoming publisher of the newspaper and its sister paper at the age of 27. Batten retired as chairman of Landmark in 1998.

But Batten is perhaps best known for his philanthropic pursuits, with educational institutions among his largest reciepients.  His gifts included $100 million to create the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, $60 million to the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at U.Va. and up to $70 million to Culver Academies, a preparatory school in Indiana. (Batten attended Culver Military Academy and the University of Virginia).

He was also known for civic engagement in the Hampton Roads community, taking on many local and state appointments. He helped guide Old Dominion University’s inception, serving as the school’s first rector.

One of Batten’s primary business successes was creation of The Weather Channel. Landmark eventually sold the channel and its related properties for a reported $3.5 billion. Now called Landmark Media Enterprises LLC,  Landmark still owns nine daily newspapers, more than 100 nondaily and specialty publications, television stations and a marketing company. The company had put itself on the market earlier this year, but eventually pulled out as the economy deteriorated.

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