- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BALTIMORE — Prominent publisher and former diplomat Philip Merrill, whose body was recovered from the Chesapeake Bay on Monday, apparently committed suicide, his family said last night.

Mr. Merrill, 72, an experienced sailor, was discovered missing June 10 when his sailboat was found empty in the Chesapeake Bay with the engine running.

“We have come to learn that the events that occurred on June 10 were in all likelihood the result of his own efforts to take his life,” Mr. Merrill’s family said. “We were shocked at the news and found it very difficult to accept.”

The family issued the statement after a broadcast report that Mr. Merrill had ended his life.

WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller, citing “a source familiar with the investigation,” reported on the station’s 6 p.m. broadcast that Mr. Merrill sustained wounds from a shotgun that apparently were self-inflicted.

Miss Miller also said that the man who found Mr. Merrill’s empty boat “reportedly found blood on board.”

A Department of Natural Resources Police spokesman did not return calls for comment last night.

Mr. Merrill was chairman of the board of Annapolis-based Capital-Gazette Communications Inc., which publishes Washingtonian magazine, the Annapolis Capital newspaper and five other Maryland papers.

The family mentioned his health as a factor.

“Phil underwent significant heart surgery over a year ago and was on several medications as a result of it. Over the past four weeks, we observed that his spirit had dimmed. … He was fatigued and unmotivated, a clear departure from his lifelong optimistic outlook and irrepressible spirit.” The statement said his family, which includes his wife, Eleanor, and three grown children, discussed their concerns with Mr. Merrill’s physician.

“Unfortunately, with the same resolve and single-mindedness that made him so effective as an executive, he appears to have made his decision to carry out his actions with tragic consequences,” they said.

Mr. Merrill took leave from his publishing duties in December 2002, when 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.

He served as assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels from 1990 to 1992. Mr. 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 Soviet Union. He was a former special assistant to the deputy secretary of state and has worked in the White House on national security affairs.

In 2001, Mr. Merrill gave $10 million to the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. The school now bears his name.

“Whatever the cause, Phil Merrill’s death remains a tragedy, and our hearts and thoughts go out to his family,” Steve Crane, assistant dean at the journalism school, told The Washington Times. “His generosity already has touched many lives at the college, and his legacy will be felt for years to come.

“Phil insisted that [the money] not sit in a bank and collect interest,” Mr. Crane said. It has been spent on faculty, graduate fellowships, equipment and outreach, he said.

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