Former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who led the newspaper to new levels of influence and profit amid some of the most significant moments in 20th-century journalism, died on Saturday. He was 86.

Mr. Sulzberger, who went by the nickname “Punch” and served with the Marine Corps in World War II and Korea before joining the Times as a reporter, died at his home in Southampton, New York, after a long illness.

During his three-decade-long tenure, the newspaper won 31 Pulitzer prizes, published the Pentagon Papers and won a libel case victory in New York Times vs. Sullivan that established important First Amendment protections for the press. “Punch, the old Marine captain who never backed down from a fight, was an absolutely fierce defender of the freedom of the press,” said his son, and current Times publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

In an era of declining newspaper readership, the Times’ weekday circulation climbed from 714,000 when Mr. Sulzberger became publisher in 1963 to 1.1 million upon his retirement as publisher in 1992. Over the same period, the annual revenues of the Times’ corporate parent rose from $100 million to $1.7 billion. — AP

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