John C. "Jack" Thomas, one of Adweek's three co-founders—along with Ken Fadner and Penn Tudor—passed away Thursday night in New York of complications from pneumonia. He was 87.
Thomas, whom former Adweek advertising critic Barbara Lippert described as "an original Mad Man," remained involved with Adweek long after his partners left, retaining a corner office into the 1990s. Impeccably dressed and formal without being stuffy, Thomas was a mentor to dozens of Adweek leaders on both the editorial and ad-sales sides.
Fadner revealed the news of Thomas' passing in an email to friends and colleagues. In it, he related a perfect summation of Thomas' character:
"My own favorite [story] is when I wore a powder blue sportcoat to his daughter Suzy's wedding, which was black tie. (Nobody mentioned it. You just had to know somehow.) It was good because it's what he expected of me. He treated me with both disdain and forgiveness. Not sure how he was able to do both at once."
Facebook soon lit up with comments from those who knew Thomas.
"I always thought that if you closed your eyes while listening to Jack and Penn, it was like Clark Gable talking to John Huston. What a magically theatrical place he assembled," wrote Craig Reiss, who was editor in chief of Adweek through the meat of the 1990s.
Thomas and Fadner met at New York magazine in the 1970s, and left together after Rupert Murdoch purchased it in 1976. Together with Tudor, they launched Adweek in 1978 by merging three regional advertising publications. (Fadner is now the publisher and principal force behind Mediapost.)
Thomas was born on July 27, 1927, in Port Chester, N.Y. He earned degrees from Columbia undergrad and the Graduate School of Business. He enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday (less than a month before VJ Day), served on active duty for less than a year and was later recalled for two years of sea duty during the Korean War.
He began his publishing career at McCall's magazine in 1953 and moved to Time Inc. in 1959. He was named director of Time's U.S. sales in 1971, then joined Clay Felker as publisher of New York magazine in 1973. He was later the founding publisher of New York's California magazine, New West.
After co-founding A/S/M Communications, which published Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek and other advertising and marketing publications, he served as president, later chairman and finally consultant, retiring in 2000.
Pre-deceased by his wife, Eula Metzger, and his son Jeffrey Leonard, Thomas is survived by his children Mark Gregory Thomas (Ruth), Pamela Cook Thomas and Suzanne Thomas Houghton, as well as six grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on July 22 at 11 a.m. at St. John's of Lattingtown in Lattingtown, N.Y.