Legacies are narrated by those who are the most affected by a person’s influence. A life becomes legendary, and a person’s impact and accomplishments become part of a much larger story told by those who were lucky enough to experience it. Long after achievements and success stories fade, the indelible mark left behind stays with us as a constant reminder of memories that are always with us. In both work and life, creating a noteworthy legacy is a noble challenge that offers us the opportunity to stay true to our values and commit to being of service.
In October, publishing and advertising sales legend Henry W. Marks, embodying a dynamic spirit at age 93, unexpectedly died in one of his favourite places on earth, East Hampton, New York. His life offers us an excellent lesson on living fully with authenticity as a contributor to the greater good. With a media career traversing over half a century, Henry was a highly respected executive and consultant for prominent companies and brands, including Dow Jones, Playboy, Psychology Today, Rolling Stone, Abril, and Weider. Witnessing the evolution of our industry from a predominantly national, print-only, male-dominated business to international multimedia brands on multiple platforms driven by diverse teams and technology, Henry had a true passion for his work and effecting change.
A believer in collaboration, knowledge transfer, the FIPP network, and a champion for individuals at every level (from promising media entrepreneurs and office staff to seasoned CEOs,) Henry was a unique leader in the global media landscape. An early pioneer in the international publishing space, Henry positioned the Playboy brand and media portfolio to achieve its most significant highs with over 1,500 ad pages and millions of readers. He broke new ground in territories including Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Hungary, and Japan while recasting the business in Germany, Greece, France, and Poland. A robust media presence aided brand awareness of Playboy, becoming one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Today, the brand continues “driving billions of dollars annually in global consumer spending with products and content available in approximately 180 countries,” according to PLBY Group.
“Henry found joy in his work and greater joy in the people he worked with. A great many of us loved Henry; many more respected him. But the mischievous glee in how he worked, taught, and supported us, apparently almost without effort, was a thing to feel.” shared David Walker, former Senior VP, Publishing, and Editorial Director.
Throughout the decades, Henry mentored new generations of media leaders worldwide. His publishing expertise and influence as a mentor helped reimagine businesses and launch countless ventures. Henry enjoyed participating in FIPP Congresses and special delegations to open new territories for international publishing, training local partner teams on best practices, and applying cultural intelligence to media brand adaptations. Even his competitors admired his singular style, tenacity, and strategic mindset. With his keen eye for identifying talent and a low tolerance for the ineffective, Henry was generous with his time and wisdom for those he chose to coach and challenge.
On his approach to work, David noted, “He was fearless; if there was ever time in his career, he was anxious, and I suppose there must have been, it was not in the years I knew him or the many folks who had worked with him in earlier decades. He was always unforgettable. People who had worked with him 20 years earlier would stop in surprise and delight seeing him. (And you didn’t overlook Henry passing by!) He brought out something special in us, I guess because he had something very special in him.”
Reflecting on his time working with Henry, Theo Filippopoulos, Chairman of Attica Publications, shared his thoughts on Henry’s influence and impact: “I had the unique chance in my life to meet and work with Henry in the late ’90s. He inspired me as no one else has in my professional and personal life. This kind of influence may happen once in a lifetime. We worked together at Playboy and later at Shape magazine. But mostly, we were real friends.
Further to any other achievement, he structured the development of the Playboy brand in Eastern European countries. I had the chance to listen to and participate in various launches in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, and, of course, the relaunch of the Greek edition. Henry’s training contagiousness, with his unique subtle humour, was always transforming ‘work’ to a constant fun ‘party.’”
Those of us who had the distinct privilege to work alongside him knew how incredibly colourful, and vibrant Henry was. The friendships Henry forged within our industry were genuine and continued into his retirement. His reverberating impact serves as an exemplar of a meaningful career legacy for us all.