Victoria’s Diary: A tribute to Bob Brennan

Bob with his sister in Austria.

“How do I love you? Let me count the ways,” is how I began my husband Stu’s eulogy. 

I feel the need to say those words again for Bob Brennan, 68, who has served as COO of our news media company for almost two decades and shockingly suffered a heart attack after his daily six-mile run.

I await news on his status as I continue to pray for him.

Bob has been my “work husband,” someone I could call on any time, from anywhere, about anything. He’s had the pulse of our company, guiding Josh and I as we expanded from 14 to 72 newspapers, magazines and websites. He is our cherished consultant on every aspect of the business. 

I first met him when we were both serving as members of the Queens Museum board. He was a senior executive at Newsday at the time. There were problems there and he got embroiled in them.

Shortly after, I saw him walking down the street on Bell Boulevard, no longer at Newsday. I asked him to come upstairs and talk to me because I knew of his vast experience in the news business. I decided to hire him and I never looked back. I’ve had him by my side ever since. 

After meeting our new staff in Philadelphia, we went for cheesesteaks.

There was never an issue I had to deal with that I didn’t turn to him for advice. He helped me grow the business and after our recent acquisition of the CNG group — buying all our competitors in Brooklyn and Queens and giving us a footprint in Manhattan, Westchester and the Bronx — he got involved watching over our all of them. 

In September, we acquired amNew York and merged it in January with Metro New York and Metro Philadelphia. Bob was there to guide and lead our new teams through the transition. He is admired, loved and respected by our staff, both “old” and new staff. 

Bob is a superb, spirited skier and I worried every trip he took, that he should come home whole — he did. 

Just three weeks ago, he went to Austria with his sister for his annual European ski trip. Upon returning, although he was feeling fine, he respected our staff and self quarantined himself. While at home for two weeks, he still oversaw our business — ironically, his last phone call was with Demetra Mattone talking about the upcoming Power Women of New York event she would be running in September.

It was Bob who oversaw the events team as part of his responsibilities. He supervised every detail, from budget planning to printing journals to making sure the team was in place for the night of the event. He ensured every event ran as smooth as silk, making our events division a major part of our success. 

He was there to guide each team member in Philadelphia, New York City and Long Island. No job was beneath him to personally oversee and he engaged with every one of our employees. His greatest joy was to hold weekly inspirational training meetings at each of our offices in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. I don’t know who gained more from it — him or the staff. It was just another challenge that he took on superbly. 

His favorite day of the year was Halloween, when we had our staff dress up in costumes and compete for prizes. But no one was as creative or outrageous as he was in creating costumes that were jaw droppingly unique.

Until Brian Rice arrived with the Bayside Times/TimesLedger acquisition, he had led our sales team in Queens. Then he oversaw all of our acquisitions. 

His input with the production department, led by Debbie Cusick, Alan Seltzer and Nirmal Singh, was a remarkable relationship. They can tell you how Bob was always calm, but firm, when it came to meeting our press deadlines, sometimes juggling six publications a week.

Bob and I had our last “fight” — a rare thing because we seldom disagreed — when I wanted to continue our plan to host our Power Women of New York event on May 27. He didn’t want it on the schedule too soon because of the pandemic. He was a realist and I am a dreamer. We compromised, as we usually did when we disagreed, and at first made the September event our “rain date.” We made the September date official and he was right and I was wrong.

I could always count on Bob to say what he thought was right for the company. He was never a “yes man” — he was a wise businessman and friend and advisor. I can’t imagine our company without him. 

He was so proud of his sons, who he earned advanced degrees at their superior schools. Cathy Lane, his life mate for 25 years, was also a part of our company, helping to guide us into the digital era. They ushered each other through life’s journey, giving each other the space to soar. 

Bob, you are a critical part of my life. I will miss calling you day and night. May a miracle happen. 

He made work fun and he loved the news business (he read six newspapers before he came to work) as much as I do.