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Barbara Greenspun, Las Vegas publisher, philanthropist and developer, dies at 88

June 2, 2010 | 12:50 pm

Barbara Greenspun spent more than 60 years helping shape Las Vegas as a newspaper publisher, philanthropist and real estate developer.

But she recalled her uncertainty when her husband, the late Hank Greenspun, bought a fledgling newspaper in a city of 25,000 people in 1950 to turn it into the daily Las Vegas Sun.

"I said, 'Oh no, not a newspaper — not with all that we have on our plate,'" Barbara Greenspun remembered 50 years later. "He put $1,000 down to buy it, and we didn't have $1,000 back then. We didn't have any money."

Greenspun lived to see Las Vegas grow to some 2 million residents and the newspaper she headed as publisher after her husband's death in 1989 win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for public service for stories about construction safety and worker deaths at resort projects on the Las Vegas Strip.

Greenspun died Tuesday at her home of complications of old age, the Las Vegas Sun reported. She was 88.

"My mother's insistence on continuing Hank's legacy — which was running the Las Vegas Sun in the community interest — never wavered," said Brian Greenspun, the Sun's president and editor, the chairman of the Greenspun Corp., and Greenspun's oldest son.

"Whether it was the Youth Forum, the Las Vegas Sun Camp Fund or a hard-hitting story that adversely affected our friends, she remained consistent," he said in a statement. "Whatever was best for this community is what the newspaper and her family did."

Greenspun was remembered as a woman of grace and resolve who ran the newspaper's business dealings and charmed business owners to buy ads and pay past-due accounts.

"Barbara Greenspun elevated conversation, cutting through the petty and underlining the timeless," said Sherman Frederick, president of Stephens Media LLC and publisher of the rival Las Vegas Review-Journal. "She was an elegant woman, inside and out, and her presence in Las Vegas will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to the Greenspun family."

Greenspun Corp. publishes the Las Vegas Sun under a joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal. The competing newspapers are delivered together.

Greenspun helped launch KLAS-TV, the area's first television station, in 1953, and helped found the city's first cable television company in 1970.

In 1974, the couple formed American Nevada Corp., which developed the first master-planned community in southern Nevada, the 13-square-mile Green Valley development in Henderson.

The couple founded UNLV's Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, which now includes the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies. Barbara Greenspun was a member of the UNLV Foundation board of trustees, and in the 1990s created the Barbara Greenspun Lecture Series at UNLV.

Greenspun also served on the national board of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was a longtime supporter of Ben Gurion University in Jerusalem and in 2005 received the Anti-Defamation League's Americanism Award.

"She and her husband were a classic team," said Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson. He called Barbara Greenspun "a towering figure in the history of our community."

She was born Barbara Joan Ritchie in London on Feb. 17, 1922, and was raised with three brothers in Ireland. She met Hank Greenspun, a young officer and lawyer from New York, when he was shipping guns to Jews in Palestine. They married in 1944.

Hank Greenspun moved to Las Vegas in 1946. Barbara Greenspun followed shortly after.

Hank Greenspun died in 1989 at age 79.

They had four children: Brian, Daniel, Susan and Jane. Daniel Greenspun is president of the Greenspun Media Group and vice president of the Sun.

Funeral services were scheduled for Thursday at Congregation Ner Tamid, where Barbara Greenspun was a member.

-- Associated Press