updated 9/13/2006 1:06:50 PM ET 2006-09-13T17:06:50

William B. Ziff Jr., who built a magazine publishing empire with titles including Car and Driver, Popular Photography and PC Magazine, died Saturday. He was 76.

Ziff died at his home in Pawling, N.Y., in Dutchess County. The cause was cancer, a family representative said.

Ziff returned from Heidelberg, Germany, where he had been studying, in 1953 to take over his family’s small publishing company, Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., following the death of his father. He was 23 years old at the time. Two years later he bought out the partner in the company, Bernard Davis.

The company had just a handful of titles at the time, but Ziff built it up into a major power in world of special-interest magazines with titles including Flying, Skiing, Yachting and other magazines. He also launched a business magazine division that included publications for the travel and aviation industries.

In 1984, Ziff sold his consumer and business magazines for $712.5 million, holding on to PC Magazine, which he had bought in 1982. His choice turned out to be prescient as interest in computers continued to soar, and Ziff-Davis became a major player in the business of computer magazines.

Ten years later, in 1994, Ziff sold the publishing company to the investment firm Forstmann Little & Company for $1.4 billion after his three sons said they weren’t interested in running it.

An industry group, the Magazine Publishers of America, awarded Ziff its top honor in 1991, the Henry Johnson Fisher award for lifetime achievement.

William B. Ziff was born June 24, 1930 in Chicago. He graduated from Rutgers University.

His three sons, Dirk, Robert and Daniel, run Ziff Brothers Investments in New York. In addition to them, he is also survived by his wife, Tamsen Ann Ziff.

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