William Randolph Hearst was the Rupert Murdoch of his day. “He is,” President Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “the most potent single influence for evil we have in our life.” Hearst inherited his father’s newspaper business and kept going: At his peak, he owned 28 major newspapers and 18 magazines, not to mention radio stations and movie studios. At 23, two years after getting kicked out of Harvard, he took control of the San Francisco Examiner. He acquired the New York Morning Journal in 1895 and turned it into a bastion of sensational celebrity news and yellow journalism. He married a chorus girl named Millicent. Although he lost in two bids to become Mayor of New York City and another to become Governor of the state, in 1902 he did win election to Congress. Fireworks at a celebration in Madison Square Garden reportedly killed dozens. His towering personality was portrayed in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. Hearst offered RKO Pictures $800,000 destroy all prints and burn the negatives of the film. When he died in 1951, he gave his sons five of the 13 seats on the board of trustees overseeing the Hearst Corporation.
William Randolph Hearst Jr.—“Young Bill”—took the helm. He was a cub reporter for The New York American, publisher of the New York Journal-American and a World War II correspondent before winning the 1956 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Soviet Union. He later wrote, “I lived in my father’s shadow all my life.” In reference to the Hearst name, he said, “I don’t need a title. My father gave me one when I was born.” He divorced twice before marrying gossip columnist Austine McDonnell in 1948. The couple had two sons, Austin and William Randolph III, who became publisher of the San Francisco Examiner in 1984 but then left the paper to become a partner at the investment company Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. He is currently a director of the Hearst Corporation.
Young Bill’s older brother George Randolph Hearst spent time as vice president of the Hearst board. He and his wife, Rosalie May Wynn, had George Randolph Hearst Jr., who at age 79 is the oldest living heir and has been serving as board chairman of the Hearst Corporation since 1996. Forbes ranked him No. 160 in its list of the 400 Richest Americans, with a net worth of more than $2 billion. He has two daughters and two sons, including George III, who is a vice president at the Hearst Corporation and associate publisher of the Albany Times Union.
Another of the original five brothers was John Randolph Hearst, who was president of Harper’s Bazaar as well as general manager of the Hearst radio enterprise and publisher of the New York Daily Mirror. He died at age 49 in 1958, leaving four children, including John Randolph Hearst Jr.—a Hearst director who now controls his father’s branch of the trust—and William Randolph Hearst II.
The brother who lived the longest was Randolph Apperson Hearst—“Randy”—who attended Harvard and was chairman of Hearst Corporation from 1973 to 1996. He was serving as editor and president of the San Francisco Examiner when his daughter Patty was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, putting him in his own newspaper’s headlines. He had four other daughters: Catherine Hearst, Virginia Anne Hearst Randt, Anne Randolph Hearst and Victoria Veronica Hearst.
Of the third generation, Patricia Hearst Shaw is certainly the most famous: As a Berkeley sophomore in 1974, she was kidnapped and apparently brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a radical anti-fascist group that advocated the overthrow of corporations and governments. The S.L.A. demanded a $400 million ransom, while she was drawn into participating in a whirlwind of illegal activities, including a bank robbery. She served almost two years in jail before President Jimmy Carter helped release her. She married an ex-cop, Bernard Shaw, and moved to Connecticut before Bill Clinton officially pardoned her in 2001. She was the leading witness in a trial against S.L.A. members in 2002. She has two daughters: Gillian Hearst Shaw, 25, who can be seen flitting around fashion shows and the Hamptons and recently competed to win the starring role in Social (a reality show about, well, socialites); and Lydia Hearst Shaw, 22, who prances on the runway, pouts in ads for Louis Vuitton and Prada, and dates rock stars and party boys.
While Patty Hearst’s sister, Anne Randolph Hearst, was never kidnapped by crazed maniacs, she has been swept off her feet by soigné author Jay McInerney, whom she recently married. She is contributing editor of Hearst’s Town & Country and has a daughter, Amanda Hearst, a 22-year old model who is studying art history at Fordham University and is the fresh face of the preppy-clothing powerhouse Lilly Pulitzer.