McClure Syndicate Sold to Bell-NANA
By Erwin Knoll 9/6/52
McClure Newspaper Syndicate, which has long claimed the distinction of being the world’s oldest newspaper feature service, this week terminated 68 years of independent operation with its sale to the Bell Syndicate-North American Newspaper Alliance group.
According to Ernest Cuneo, president of NANA, who contracted the purchase, McClure will be operated as a separate subsidiary of the group, which also includes Consolidated News Features, Inc., and Associated Newspapers, Inc.
Control of the syndicate passed to the new owners with the purchase of a 1,000-share block of capital stock for $47,250 by Mr. Cuneo at an auction Thursday, Sept. 4. Mr. Cuneo outbid James L. Lenahan, former president and editor of the syndicate, and Guggenheimer & Untermeyer, attorneys for the estate of the late Adelaide P. Waldo.
The attorneys had held the block of shares as security for a debt, and had themselves offered them for sale at auction.
According to plans announced just before E&P went to press, John Wheeler, chairman of the board of the four affiliated Bell concerns, will serve in a similar capacity at McClure. John F. C. Bryce, who with Mr. Cuneo purchased a substantial interest in the group in March, 1951, will be president of the new acquisition. He holds the same title in Consolidated News Features and Associated Newspapers. Joseph B. Agnelli, executive vice-president and general manager of the four companies, will be executive vice-president of McClure.
No decision has yet been made as to editorial supervision of the syndicate. Louis Ruppel, who last month was elected editor and president of McClure, told E&P: “Ernest Cuneo and I are old friends, and we are now negotiating as to my future with the syndicate.”
Mr. Lenahan, who was president and editor of the syndicate and operated it for six years, said he expects to re-enter the syndicate field with an independent service. He figured unsuccessfully in the bidding at Thursday’s auction. He opened with $2,500, stating, “I know what the business is worth.”
The McClure Newspaper Syndicate was founded in 1884 by S. S. McClure. In 1914 it was sold by the McClure interests to J. C. Brainard who in turn sold to Richard H. Waldo in 1927. After Mr. Waldo’s death in 1943, his widow, the late Adelaide P. Waldo, ran the syndicate for three years. Mr. Lenahan acquired control from her in 1946. Mr. Lenahan’s failure to meet a due payment on the stock led to the auction.
Among features introduced to newspaper readers in the course of McClure’s 68-year history are the first cartoons of Claire Victor Dwiggins and Rube Goldberg; the articles and stories of George Ade, John Kendrick Bangs, Fannie Hurst, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells and Jack London; the art work of James Montgomery Flagg; Calvin Coolidge’s column; “Superman”; and the first “behind the news” column from Washington.
Features currently handled by the syndicate include, among comic strips, “Archie,” “Alfred,” ”Superman,” “King Aroo” and “Roger Lincoln”; “There Oughta Be a Law” panels; columns on fashions, interior decorating, international affairs and Ray Tucker’s “Washington Whirligig”.
An ironic aspect of Bell-NANA’s acquisition of McClure is that John Wheeler, founder of the Bell Syndicate and now chairman of the board of McClure, did his first syndicate writing for McClure Syndicate in 1913, and in 1916 sold his own business, the Wheeler Syndicate, to McClure.
Ernest Cuneo, who acted for the Bell-NANA group at the auction, bought into the group in March, 1951. He is an attorney for Walter Winchell.