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Patrick McGovern, billionaire tech publisher, dies at 76

Laurence Arnold
(c) 2014, Bloomberg News.
Patrick J. McGovern, who became a billionaire as founder and majority owner of Boston-based technology publisher International Data Group, has died. He was 76.

He died Wednesday at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., the company said in a statement. No cause was given. He lived in Hollis, New H.H.

IDG publishes 180 print publications, 460 websites and market research, almost all focused on technology. Its brands include CIO, Computerworld, GamePro, InfoWorld and Techworld. It is responsible for 700 industry conferences, including the annual Macworld expo for Apple users.

The closely held company, with $3.6 billion in annual revenue, reached more than 280 million regular readers of its publications in 2013.

"Pat's foremost desire was for IDG to make the world a better place through the medium of information technology," Walter Boyd, IDG's newly elected chairman, said in the statement. "He created a unique workplace where we have the outstanding leadership team in place to ensure that the company he created will continue to grow and prosper."

McGovern had a net worth of $6.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the 205th-richest person in the world and 66th-richest in the U.S.

Among his company's creations was the "For Dummies" series of how-to books, which was later spun off. In a 2004 interview with Newsweek, McGovern said those titles came about because the head of his book division "heard people asking for books not written for programmers by programmers, but something really dumb — for somebody who just wants to make it easy. And so I thought, in that context, it could be plausible." The series is now published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Patrick Joseph McGovern was born on Aug. 11, 1937, in Queens, New York, and was raised mostly in Philadelphia.

His career in publishing began while he was a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., when he applied for a part-time editorial job at Computers and Automation, the first U.S. computer magazine, IDG said.

After his graduation from MIT in 1959 with a degree in biophysics, he was named associate editor, and became associate publisher.

He founded International Data Corp. — now a unit of IDG — in 1964 to compile statistics on the nascent computer industry, and three years later introduced his first magazine, the weekly Computerworld.

"I felt so amazed that as an editor I could call anyone in the country or the world and they would all of a sudden talk with me, which I would imagine they would not thought to do before," he said in a 2000 oral history. "That's the power of saying, 'I'm an editor.'"

In 2000, he and his wife, Lore Harp McGovern, pledged $350 million over 20 years to create the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two children from his first marriage, Patrick and Elizabeth; two children from his wife's first marriage, Michelle Bethel and Dina Jackson; and nine grandchildren.

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