Chile’s media tycoon Agustín Edwards dies at 89

SANTIAGO – Agustín Edwards, the Chilean media magnate who published El Mercurio, the country’s most influential conservative newspaper, and played a crucial role in overthrowing the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973, has died at an age of 89.

El Mercurio confirmed his death on Monday at his farm in Graneros, about 46 miles south of Santiago, the capital.

An article in the newspaper said he had been in an induced coma for almost two months since returning from medical treatment in New York, where he had experienced complications after an operation.

Agustín Edwards Eastman was born on Nov. 24, 1927, in Paris to María Isabel Eastman and Agustín Edwards Budge. At the time, his father was an executive at the Paris branch of the J.P. Morgan bank.

He was heir to a corporate empire built after his ancestor George Edwards had emigrated to Chile from London in 1804. Successive generations of Agustín Edwards – as all the family’s firstborn males have been named – amassed a fortune in mining, banking, agriculture, publishing and even whaling, while delving into politics and diplomacy.

Mr. Edwards took the reins of the family business at 29 after his father’s sudden death in 1956. Two years later, he was presiding over El Mercurio.

El Mercurio, founded in the port city of Valparaíso in 1827, is the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the world. Mr. Edwards’s grandfather, Agustín Edwards MacClure, founded the Santiago edition in 1900.

Today, El Mercurio group controls three major newspapers and over 20 regional papers throughout the country. El Mercurio has served both as a mouthpiece for Chile’s conservative and business elites and as a political force in its own right.

Throughout General Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, El Mercurio lent credence to the military’s misinformation campaigns and denied the extensive, and well-documented, human rights violations taking place.

In September 1991, one of Mr. Edwards’s sons, Cristián, then 33, was abducted by a left-wing organization and held for nearly five months before being released when the family paid a $2 million ransom.

In 2015, the Chilean Journalists Association Ethics Tribunal expelled Mr. Edwards from the organization because of his papers’ past ties to the C.I.A., its actions to subvert democracy and its history of covering up human rights crimes under the Pinochet government.

Last year, Mr. Edwards’s name appeared in the so-called Panama Papers, the 11.5 million documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which had helped some of the world’s wealthiest people – including politicians, athletes and business moguls – establish offshore bank accounts. He was listed as one of the clients.

Besides his son Cristián, his survivors include his wife, María Luisa del Río; five other children, Agustín, Isabel, Carolina, Andrés and Felipe, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.