Philly newspaper owner Lewis Katz among dead in private plane crash

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(CNN) — A prominent Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist was among seven people killed Saturday night when their private plane crashed on takeoff in Massachusetts.

Lewis Katz had purchased the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and CNN affiliate philly.com just days before the crash. He was 72.

“It is with an incomprehensible amount of grief and the heaviest of hearts that my sister and I announce the loss of our beloved dad,” Drew Katz said in a statement Sunday. “My father was my best friend. He taught me everything. He never forgot where and how he grew up, and he worked tirelessly to support his community in countless ways that were seen and unseen.”

Katz was formerly the principal owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. He was a shareholder of the Nets, the New York Yankees and the YES Network at the time of his death.

“The New York Yankees are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Lewis Katz last night,” managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “Lewis was a minority owner of the Yankees and a valued, long-time friend and colleague to so many of us within the organization. We will cherish his sense of humor, intellect, and deep sense of philanthropy. Lewis had a huge heart and was always there when someone needed help. He will forever be remembered.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Lewis — who took the Nets to the franchise’s first ever visit to the NBA finals in 2002-2003 — “a trusted friend and valued member of the NBA family.”

“All of us at the NBA were extremely saddened to learn of the tragic, sudden death of former Nets owner Lewis Katz. He was a visionary businessman who touched the lives of so many with his tireless pursuit of innovation and enterprise, as well as his deep commitment to his family, friends and community. I send my deepest condolences to the Katz family during this very difficult time,” Silver said in a statement Sunday.

Katz, who was an attorney in addition to his business ventures, was also a prolific philanthropist.

His alma mater, Temple University, announced that it would rename the medical school in his honor after a $25 million gift in 2013.

Two buildings at Pennsylvania State University — where Katz went to law school — also bear his name.

Katz was also active in his native Camden, New Jersey, where he founded two charter schools and supported a number of charities as well as youth, educational, religious and civic causes.

Katz flew to Massachusetts earlier Saturday to attend a fund-raising event at the Boston-area home of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She said she had dinner with him Saturday evening before he left for his flight back to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“He was a force of nature,” Goodwin said of her friend of 20 years in a statement. “So deep was his commitment to education reform that he flew to Concord to support my son Michael’s Concord River institute. Afterward we all went to dinner, where we talked at length about our shared passions for sports and journalism, politics and history. But the last thing he said to me upon leaving for the plane was that most of all what we shared was our love and pride for our children. I have lost a great friend, his family has lost a great father and grandfather, and the country has lost a great man.”

Luke Schiada, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board told reporters Sunday that the four passengers and three crew members were killed when the Gulfstream IV failed to get airborne from Hanscom Field, about 20 miles northwest of Boston. Schiada would not speculate on how or why that happened, but said the plane went through a chain-link fence and then down an embankment before winding up in a gully approximately 2,000 feet from the end of the paved runway surface. A “significant post-crash fire” consumed much of the plane, according to Schiada.

A spokeswoman for the Middlesex County district attorney told CNN that the office is awaiting the completion of autopsy reports and positive identifications before releasing the names of the victims.

By Kevin Conlon and Josh Levs

CNN’s Allie Malloy, Jill Martin and Morgan Winsor contributed to this report