updated 6/11/2006 4:17:35 AM ET 2006-06-11T08:17:35

Rescue crews searched the Chesapeake Bay for a prominent publisher and diplomat after his sailboat was discovered empty in the water, the executive editor of The (Annapolis) Capital said Sunday.

Philip Merrill’s boat was found around 7 p.m. Saturday, authorities said. Merrill was still missing early Sunday, said Tom Marquardt of The (Annapolis) Capital, which is part of Merrill’s publishing company.

The 72-year-old publisher had been sailing alone on a breezy day, Marquardt said in a telephone interview. He said he did not know what might have happened to him.

“I’d have to speculate,” Marquardt said. “There’s just too many things that can go wrong.”

Ken Turner, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources police, said Saturday night that two boaters found Merrill’s unoccupied 41-foot sailboat. Merrill, of Arnold, went sailing around 2 p.m. Saturday, Turner said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Calvert County Volunteer Fire Department assisted in the search Saturday night. State police conducted an aerial search with a helicopter but suspended it late in the evening.

Prominent career
Merrill has had a broad career in public and private service.

In December 2002, he was sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney as president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. He stepped down when his term expired in July 2005.

Before that, Merrill was chairman of the board of the Annapolis-based Capital-Gazette Communications, Inc., which publishes The Washingtonian magazine, The (Annapolis) Capital and four other Maryland newspapers.

He served as assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels from 1990 to 1992. Between 1983 to 1990, he served on the Department of Defense Policy Board. From 1981 to 1983 he was counselor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. In 1988 the Secretary of Defense awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest civilian honor given by the department.

Merrill has represented the United States in negotiations on the Law of the Sea Conference, the International Telecommunications Union, and various disarmament and exchange agreements with the former Soviet Union. He is a former special assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State and has worked in the White House on national security affairs.

The college of journalism at the University of Maryland is named for him.

Merrill graduated from Cornell University and the Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development.

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