In 1986 Nelson Doubleday carried off a double coup, personally buying the baseball team from Doubleday & Company for a record $100 million in partnership with Fred Wilpon and, in a separate transaction, selling the publishing company to Bertelsmann A.G., the West German communications conglomerate, for a reported $475 million.
July 20, 1933
Nelson Doubleday, the scion of one of the major American publishing dynasties, has parlayed an unlikely partnership between the family book company and a major-league baseball franchise into a winning investment. Doubleday is the grandson of F. N. Doubleday, the founder of Doubleday & Company Inc., and the great-great-grandnephew of Abner Doubleday, the apocryphal "inventor" of baseball. Working his way up the executive ladder in the publishing company, he became its president in 1978. Two years later the company bought the then lowly New York Mets, the National League baseball team, and Doubleday became chairman of the Met board as well. Over the next six years, the Mets developed into a championship team, while Doubleday & Company showed signs of foundering. In 1986 Nelson Doubleday carried off a double coup, personally buying the baseball team from Doubleday & Company for a record $100 million in partnership with Fred Wilpon and, in a separate transaction, selling the publishing company to Bertelsmann A.G., the West German communications conglomerate, for a reported $475 million.
Nelson Doubleday is the son of the late Nelson Doubleday Sr., who built the company founded by F. N. (Frank Nelson) Doubleday into a mass-market giant among trade publishers, and the late Ellen McCarter (Violett) Doubleday. His ancestor Abner Doubleday actually existed and may have contributed to the popularization of baseball, but he certainly did not invent the game. Nelson was born on July 20, 1933, in Oyster Bay, Long Island. During Nelson's infancy the aging Rudyard Kipling, one of the Doubleday company's many illustrious authors, dedicated his poem "If" to him. Growing up in Oyster Bay, Nelson and his sister, Neltje (who now has the last name Kings, from her second marriage), lived, in Neltje's words, the "very isolated life" of "two rich kids sitting in a big house with lots of nannies and maids." According to Neltje, Nelson, a "very silent" child, was much more interested in baseball than in books. "He went to day camp and hated it," she remembered, as quoted by Christine Dugas in Business Week (August 4, 1986). "He wasn't much of a participator. But he liked to listen to Dodgers [baseball] games on the radio." Like his father, Nelson was "not a reader," Neltje said. "I think in many ways he mimicked our father, who always said, I don't read books, I sell them.'"