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Former newspaper executive Russell dies at 92

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The former president and chairman of Central Newspapers Inc., which published the Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star before being sold to Gannett Co. Inc., in 2000, has died. He was 92.

Frank E. Russell died early Saturday in Phoenix.

Russell served as president of Central Newspapers Inc. from 1979 to 1998. The company also published the Arizona Business Gazette and other publications before Gannett purchased it.

The newspaper said Russell divided time between homes in Indianapolis and Phoenix.

John Zidich, CEO and publisher of the Republic, praised Russell's business acumen and passion for the community, adding that Russell earned a stellar reputation in the media industry and "has left an indelible mark with impact throughout Arizona."

The Republic said Russell was recognized by the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for his years of leadership in Phoenix when it created the Frank E. Russell Chair in Business and Journalism. That kind of honor "speaks volumes about his many contributions to the industry and community," Zidich said.

Louis A. 'Chip' Weil III, who Russell recruited in 1991 to become publisher and CEO of Phoenix Newspapers Inc., said in a statement that Russell "was a man of the highest integrity. He was, above all, a great listener. And, after digesting all information, would act, invariably doing the right thing. His people skills were beyond reproach, giving many, including me, the chance to succeed. As CEO of Central Newspapers, he led the company to new heights."

Weil was named president and CEO of Central Newspapers in 1996 upon Russell's retirement.

Russell began his newspaper career in 1959 as a business manager for Eugene Pulliam, founder of the Indianapolis Star and Central Newspapers, who found his background as a lawyer and certified public accountant an invaluable asset.

Pulliam's wife, Nina, turned to Russell to help carry on her humanitarian interests that would create opportunities for people in need, care for animals and nature, and improve community life in Arizona and Indiana where she lived and worked.

After she died in 1997, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust began. Russell became the chair and his wife, Nancy, a founding trustee. Until they stepped down from the trust in December 2011, the Russells awarded more than $192 million to 847 Arizona and Indiana non-profit agencies.

"Doing things for grateful people that have benefited one way or another from the trust has been a pleasure and a reward," Frank Russell said at the time, in an interview with The Republic.

The trust developed "Nina Scholars," which has become a nationally recognized program that provides scholarship opportunities for three underserved populations: adults with dependents in the household; college-age youth raised in the child-welfare system; and students with physical challenges.

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  • Too bad he sold the Newspaper
    Gannett papers are so bad, I seldom ready the Indystar.

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