Barbara Cox Anthony's heart exceeded her great wealth
Media heiress Barbara Cox Anthony died in her sleep at her home near Diamond Head.
HAWAII residents rarely saw Barbara Cox Anthony in public or, if they did, probably were unaware that they were a short distance from the state's only billionaire. Her presence in the islands was felt mostly by her generosity, with about half of her income quietly going to philanthropy. She died Monday at her home near Diamond Head
at the age of 84.
Anthony was ranked with her older sister, Anne Cox Chambers, by Forbes magazine at 17th richest in the United States and 45th in the world, with a net worth of $12.6 billion each. It derived from their father, James M. Cox, a former schoolteacher who bought a small newspaper in Dayton, Ohio, and was three-term governor of Ohio and the Democratic nominee for president in 1920.
The newspaper purchase evolved into a vast media empire, Cox Enterprises. Its holdings now include 17 daily newspapers, one of the largest broadband communications companies, the world's largest auto auction company, 15 television stations and majority ownership of 80 radio stations, including Honolulu's KCCN, KINE, KRTR and KXME.
Her father died in 1957 and the company's leadership fell to her older brother, who died in 1974. The sisters remained principal owners and members of the board of directors of the company, now headed by Anthony's son, James C. Kennedy.
Anthony moved to Hawaii in the 1940s but attended every board meeting at the company's headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., until her health began to fail several years ago. Kennedy said she pushed executives to be aggressive in their business practices, but would not tolerate her children "being snotty to anybody or being rude."
"She thought she was fortunate but not special; she instilled that in my sister and me," Kennedy said. "We're not better, we're just luckier."
Anthony shunned notoriety but was anything but reclusive. She cheered Kennedy and his high school football teammates at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. She oversaw all aspects of the company's 7,500-acre Hualalai Ranch on the Big Island, often joining the ranch hands to herd cattle and dining with them afterward. She attended the opening of the Honolulu radio stations' new facilities in 2002.
Anthony made philanthropic donations privately, often anonymously, through a personal foundation and through the James M. Cox foundation. Beneficiaries included cancer research and animal research, including equine medicine and canine cancer.
Anthony was a director at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy. She co-founded and was board chairwoman of La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls in Honolulu and gave many scholarships to its students.
"What a wonderful lady," said Edward Keyes, the school's finance director. "If she weighed 100 pounds, the first 99 would be all heart."