Thursday, March 2, 2023

Scripophily Puzzle No. 7 - solution

What have The Washington Post, Berkshire Hathaway and 20th Century Fox in common? 

Answer: Scripophily Puzzle No. 7 ? 
Hm, yes ... but no, we are looking for the solution of that puzzle.

To help you solve the puzzle, see here, I provided three visual cues. These were images from three different stock and bond certificates. Each one relates to our mystery person.

And the correct answer for the puzzle was ... (drumm roll in the background) ... Katharine Graham.

The first cue showed a 100 shares certificate from The Washington Post Company, issued in 1971. At that time Katharine Meyer Graham was the President of her family's newspaper business. 

Her father, financier Eugene Meyer was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1930 to 1933. After leaving the Federal Reserve he bought the Washington Post newspaper at a bankruptcy auction in 1933 and became its "publisher". In the US a newspaper publisher is the owner of small newspaper company, or the chief executive of a major newspaper. Eugene Meyer was both. 
When president Harry Truman named Meyer to be the first president of the World Bank in 1946, Meyer transferred control of the Post to his daughter and her husband Phil Graham, the new publisher. After his father-in-law passed away in 1959 Phil Graham became the company's new president and chairman of the board.

So much for some background info about the newspaper. Enters our starring role, Katharine Meyer Graham.

Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, guest at a meeting of the Dutch Newspaper Press (NDP) in 1975
attribution: Unknown / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons, URL see here  

In 1938, after graduation, Katharine Meyer covered labor news and a wide range of other topics at the San Francisco News. One year later she returned to Washington to work for her father's newspaper. Katharine married Philip Graham in 1940. After serving the army during World War II he took over the position of The Washington Post's publisher from her father.

When her husband died in 1963, she took control of the newspaper as its new president and publisher. Back then, a woman was not supposed to be able to run a tough business like a newspaper company, but she persisted.

Katharine Graham was the first woman to head a Fortune 500 company. She was the first to serve as a director of the Associated Press, the news service owned by member newspapers, and of the American Newspaper Publishers Association. Her facsimile signature appears on stock certificates from The Washington Post.  

Mrs Graham made historic decisions about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, a top secret government account of the war in Vietnam, and the Watergate scandal, which led to Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency in 1974 under the threat of impeachment. 

In both cases, she hold out against massive pressure from the White House and other government agencies not to publish, at the risk of criminal charges for violating espionage laws and opposition to licenses for the company's broadcasting properties.

Together with Benjamin C. Bradlee, The Post's editor, Katharine Graham took the company to the top in American journalism. During her leadership, the company's revenue grew about twentyfold. The Washington Post got listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1971 and became a diversified media corporation.

What did The Washington Post disclose about the Vietnam War? The Pentagon Papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged its military operations in the Vietnam War, without informing the mainstream media. 

The first visual cue of this puzzle - a Washington Post share with Katharine Graham's signature - already contained sufficient information to take a good guess.  

However, I wanted to make you doubt yourself by providing two more visual cues, diversions, including one with a detail of another famous signature. 

The facsimile signature shown in the second image provided is the one from famous investor Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a multinational conglomerate holding company. 

Warren Buffett started buying large portions of Washington Post stocks in the 1970s. He became a close friend and financial advisor to Katharine Graham. For 37 years Buffett was a member of the board of the newspaper till 2011. At that time Berkshire Hathaway owned 21% of the common stock in The Post.

The last visual cue for this puzzle is a $5,000 bond certificate from Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. 20th Century Fox released in 2017 The Post, a political thriller about The Washington Post and the publication of the Pentagon Papers. It stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham. 

Trivia: Katharine Meyer Graham and Meryl Streep both attended Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, though at different times.

The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, also shows a similar looking stock certificate from The Washington Post. Check out The Post's trailer at see here. Scroll forward there to 1m 32sec to see Meryl Streep presenting the Washington Post's new stock certificate. 

The Washington Post's company seal, shown at the bottom of the share, mentions 1947 as its date of (re)incorporation. Near the upper left and right corner of the image, and outside the seal, you can distinguish two small round marks. You can find these dots elsewhere on the certificate too and also on many other American stock certificates. Called "planchettes" they are mixed into the paper pulp during the manufacturing process of the security paper and glow under ultraviolet light. 

Is The Washington Post still owned by the Graham family? In Oct 2013, the Graham family sold the newspaper to Nash Holdings, owned by Jeff Bezos, for $250 million.

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