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Philip Merrill, a minor media mogul and former president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, was found dead in the Chesapeake Bay in late June 2006, apparently the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 72.
As chairman of Capital-Gazette, Merrill's media empire at one time included the Capital of Annapolis, Maryland Gazette, Bowie Blade-News, Crofton News-Crier, West County News, the Washingtonian magazine, and Baltimore magazine.
According to the June 21, 2006 Washington Post, Merrill's government service included posts in six administrations, including as a member of President Ronald Reagan's Defense Policy Board, and as a State Department official from 1961 to 1968. The Post reported that over the years Merrill "frequently took time away from his business to pursue diplomatic and intelligence assignments for the government." Merrill also served as the assistant secretary-general of NATO from 1990 to 1992. In 1988, he was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest civilian honor given by the Defense Department.
Merrill was associated with a number of key figures both in and outside the administration who helped shape George W. Bush's war on terror. In 2002, during Merrill's swearing-in ceremony as president of the Export-Import Bank, Vice President Dick Cheney said: "Phil Merrill has been a friend of mine for a long time. He has had a distinguished and successful business career as well as holding a number of vital assignments for the White House and Department of Defense. I know he will be a superb chairman of the Bank."
In 2003, Merrill provided the funding to establish the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), which is directed by Eliot Cohen, an influential neoconservative scholar and member of Bush's Defense Policy Board. ( Paul Wolfowitz served as dean of SAIS before joining the Bush administration.) He served as a member of the advisory board of the Center for Security Policy, a hawkish advocacy outfit established by former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney. And he was council to Fred C. Iklé, a founding signatory of the Project for the New American Century and member of the Committee on the Present Danger in the late 1970s, while Iklé served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the Reagan administration.
Merrill's philanthropic work included donating $7.5 million to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and $10 million to the University of Maryland College of Journalism.