Harry Hoffman Dies at 92; Led the Expansion of Waldenbooks

Ingram became the industry’s largest wholesaler, shipping books to retailers far more quickly than publishers could.

Mr. Hoffman’s success at Ingram led to his being hired by Waldenbooks. The company was based in Stamford, Conn., and Mr. Hoffman, a sailor, lived about half of every year on a boat docked nearby on Long Island Sound.

In 1989, after the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made death threats against the writer Salman Rushdie and anyone involved in the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses,” Mr. Hoffman ordered all copies of the book removed from Waldenbooks shelves. He left employees the option of selling copies from its stockrooms. Other chains followed.

Mr. Hoffman defended his action as protecting his employees.

Soon after making his decision, he wrote an Op-Ed article for The Times. “I have been bombarded by attacks by publishers, authors, the media and customers,” he wrote. “Many are properly concerned at this basic abridgment of the right to by a book. To them, I say: We agree. This is serious. This is wrong.”

He added, “To them, I also say that the problems of international terrorism are not best solved by a bookstore chain.”

He retired in 1991, having led Waldenbooks to $1 billion in revenues.

In addition to Ms. Keeling, Mr. Hoffman is survived by his wife, Kathie (Peterson) Hoffman; another daughter, Lori Palermo; a son, Harry; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. His marriage to Norma Jean Olson ended in divorce.

Borders and Waldenbooks had been owned by Kmart but had been spun off into a separate company in 1995. Ultimately, the two chains were hurt by competition from Amazon and other retailers, as well as by management turnover and a failure to move strongly into digital books.

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