Dr. Sidney Harman, Chairman Emeritus of Harman International Industries passed away at age 92, from complications resulting from leukemia. Harman was a major force in both the consumer and pro audio industries. Born in 1918, he co-founded Harman Kardon in 1953 with Bernard Kardon, and produced the first component hi-fi stereo receiver. He bought out Kardon in 1956, and began expanding the company.
Harman sold his portion of Harman Kardon when he moved to Washington in 1976, but purchased it back along with other companies, eventually leading Harman International to become a publicly traded company that has grown to include brands such as Soundcraft, dbx, Crown, Allen & Heath, JBL, Digitech, Lexicon, AKG, Studer, Quested, BSS, and many more in the pro and consumer audio markets as well as in automotive electronics. Harman International currently employs nearly 12,000 people and has annual sales of $3.5 billion.
Dr. Harman was known for the “quality of working life” programs he developed at his companies’ factories, which became models that other industries worked from, and which were featured in business school programs. In 1988, he co-wrote Starting with People with Daniel Yankelovich.
Harman was active outside of the audio industry, serving as Jimmy Carter’s U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce in 1977 and 1978. He was a philanthropist who supported the arts and education, and served as a member or chairman of many boards and committees at universities, colleges, and arts and social change organizations.
He stepped down as CEO of Harman International in 2008. Among his recent activities, in 2010 Dr. Harman purchased and became publisher for Newsweek magazine and The Daily Beast web site (reportedly paying just $1, but also assuming the debts of the companies). The University of Southern California named him “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2007.
Our condolences to Dr. Harman’s family and to all of our friends at Harman International.