Laurence A. Levite (1940–2017)
Photo by Nancy J. Parisi
It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing, on April 26, of our dear friend, Larry Levite, the publisher and CEO of Buffalo Spree Publishing, Inc. Larry’s illness was mercifully brief. He died surrounded by his family, including his wife, Sharon, and his sons, Josh and Adam.
Just days ago, Larry was working with Spree staff on the celebration of the magazine’s fiftieth anniversary. Anybody who knows Larry can guess what his main concerns were: that the event be fun and “sexy”, that nobody should be left out, that everyone should leave with a gift, and that there should be enough parking. It seems incredible to walk by his office—overflowing with magazines, art, memorabilia, and really cool toys—and realize that he won’t be sitting behind that desk again.
The facts of Larry’s bio are widely known, especially when it comes to his long relationship with Western New York media. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and attending the University at Buffalo Law School, Larry entered the radio business in the late sixties, first as a salesman, then as an general manager, and finally as an owner. His radio affiliations have included (among others) WYSL and WPHD (as general manager), WEBR AM/FM (as vice president/general manager), and WBEN AM/FM, which he bought in 1978 and owned until 1994. Larry is credited with bringing the then-languishing WBEN back to prominence and the number one position in its market. One of his signal accomplishments was bringing Buffalo Bills broadcasts back to the station.
In 1998, Larry bought Buffalo Spree, where he once again engineered a transformation, building a quarterly semi-literary magazine into a monthly glossy, filled with relevant, entertaining, and informative content aimed at a Western New York readership that has grown to more than 136,000. He soon added twenty-four additional publications to the BSP family, including a monthly senior publication, Forever Young; seventeen theater and event program books; a Rochester magazine, (585); and several yearly titles. The publications have won more than seventy-five national awards between them.
These accomplishments are all the more impressive because Larry made it look so easy. It may have seemed like he spent most of his time adding more gigantic stuffed animals to the office, chatting with his staff about their families, and devising ingenious ways to let everyone go home early. But Larry understood the importance of hiring talented people and trusting them. As he said in an interview for Spree’s fiftieth anniversary issue, “I don’t manage the managers. I try to look at the bottom line and figure out how we can make our products better without spending a ton of money, but I don’t look over their shoulders.”
Larry was a great boss, as nearly everyone who has ever worked with him, including his radio colleagues, will say. He called himself Chairman of Fun, and he was. He was also someone that any staff member could go to with any kind of problem. He is an incredible loss, both to his real family and his second family at Buffalo Spree Publishing.
The BSP staff is proud to continue Larry’s company and his legacy, and looks forward, with the Levite family’s help, to publishing all the BSP titles for many years to come. With every issue of every publication, we honor him.
Larry, we bid you farewell. We are grateful that we knew you. We love you.