Robert B. Cohen of Englewood, who grew Hudson News into the world's largest airport newsstand operator, died Wednesday from complications related to a Parkinson's-like syndrome called parasupranuclear palsy. He was 86.
Mr. Cohen is survived by his wife, Harriet, whom he married in 1947. That was the same year he graduated from New York University, where he played on the basketball team. That year he also joined his father's newspaper distribution business, Hudson County News Co.
By the mid-1970s, Mr. Cohen had transformed his father's business into the largest wholesale magazine distributor in the nation, delivering magazines in the New York City and Boston areas. He expanded in the 1980s after a newsstand operator he supplied at Newark Airport went out of business and he took over.
"Eight or nine years later, he built the first [Hudson News] store in La Guardia, and by the early 1990s we had won bids for other Port Authority properties," said his son, James. "After that, we started bidding out of town."
Hudson News now includes more than 600 stores. In 2008, Advent International, a private equity firm, bought a majority interest in the business, and subsequently merged it with Dufry AG, one of the world's largest duty-free operators.
Mr. Cohen made several deals on the distribution side of the business. In the 1980s, he acquired Metropolitan News Co., a regional distributor of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, in partnership with the Times. In 1987, he acquired Newark Newsdealers, also in partnership with the Times. His company's interest in those businesses was sold to the Times in 1994. Between 1985 and 2003, Mr. Cohen owned Worldwide Media Service Inc., the largest newsstand distributor of U.S. magazines overseas.
Tennis and racehorses were among his passions. He once owned a horse named Hudson County that finished second in the 1974 Kentucky Derby behind Cannonade.
In more recent years Mr. Cohen named his foals after his grandchildren, James Cohen said. He remained active in the business despite debilitating effects of parasupranuclear palsy.
"He came in several days a week to hear what was going on right up until the end,'' said James. "That's the kind of guy he was. He loved the magazine business."
Mr. Cohen is also survived by his daughter-in-law, Lisa, and six grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his son Michael and daughter Claudia.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood.