Frank Batten Sr., founder and chairman of Landmark Communications, one of the country's largest privately held media companies, died Thursday in Norfolk, Va. He was 82.
Batten, an avid sailor, was a publishing magnate and visionary who launched The Weather Channel, among many other accomplishments. His Norfolk-based Landmark Media Enterprises - successor to Landmark Communications after a partial breakup - owns Dominion Enterprises, the parent company of Soundings Trade Only.
Frank Batten Jr. has run the company since his father stepped down in 1998.
Batten was 27 when he became publisher of The Virginian-Pilot in 1954, leading the newspaper and its sister publication, the Ledger-Star, through decades of steady growth. His publishing empire eventually included nine daily newspapers and more than 100 other specialty publications.
In 1982, he launched The Weather Channel, selling it last year for more than $3 billion.
Batten was also well-known as a philanthropist, giving more than $220 million to educational institutions, most notably his alma mater, the University of Virginia. He donated $60 million to the university's business school in 1999 and later gave $100 million to create the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, according to reports.
"He could very easily have just led the good life and not dealt with the problems of the city and the state," Harvey Lindsay, a Norfolk real estate developer, civic leader and friend of Batten's for nearly 60 years, told The Virginian-Pilot. "But he chose to become very involved and to do things that have helped so many people."
"I think he was certainly one of the great Virginians of the century," Lindsay added.