WILMINGTON — Stanley “Stan” Gordon Budner, longtime operator of the Delmar News Agency and a leader in wholesale distribution of books, magazines and newspapers, died on July 8th at the age of 94.
As the son of the famous journalist and entrepreneur EM Budner, Stan has largely followed in his father’s footsteps. His father opened the Delmar News Agency, a wholesale newspaper and magazine business, in 1932 and grew it to 425 newspaper and magazine retailers. He also bought, with Alexis I. du Pont Bayard, the now defunct Sunday Star newspaper in 1949, which they ran for five years before closing.
Born in 1927, the younger Budner served in the US Army during World War II and returned home to earn a degree in business administration from the University of Delaware. In 1950 he took over the business of the Delmar news agency from his father and ran it for 42 years until his retirement in 1992.
During this time he expanded his activities into books and other forms of media – his father was known to be an early distributor of DC Comics. He also expanded south, opening a similarly focused Key News Agency in Marathon, Florida.
“My dad handed the business over to me and said, ‘If you need me, call me,'” Budner recalled in a 2017 Interview with Delaware Today Magazine. “He let me make all the decisions and run the company.”
One of Budner’s wisest decisions was allowing his drivers to suggest what types of paperback titles he would stock at specific outlets, he recalled to Delaware Today. If cowboy and romance titles were in high demand in a location and crime and sci-fi books weren’t so popular, he would direct drivers to push the hit genres in the next shipment. This allowed Budner to maximize sales.
“One of the things I was most proud of in my life was that Wilmington was twice voted best distributor,” said Budner. “We’ve sold more books than we did in Philadelphia.”
Sal DeVivo, a longtime friend and former editor of The News Journal, recalled that Budner had negotiated one of the first deals in the country to distribute USA Today when it was published by Gannett in 1982. Today it is America’s highest-circulation newspaper.
He also recalled that Budner oversaw the distribution deal for a more controversial product for its time: Playboy magazine.
“There was a legal battle with the City of Wilmington, who didn’t want him to get this magazine, but one thing to know about Stan is that he didn’t fight back. And he did. They eventually reached a compromise: He put a paper cover over the cover of the magazine,” DeVivo said.
The other product Budner was most proud of, DeVivo said, was Delaware Today, which expanded distribution after the Martinelli family acquired it in 1982. He was longtime friends with Today Media President Rob Martinelli, who relocated from New York to Wilmington to run the magazine.
“One of the first people I met was Stan Budner, who distributed Delaware Today to newsstands across the state. Stan became a mentor and friend, as he was to many people. There are a lot of great memories including flying on his plane (with pancakes afterwards), sailing his boat, golfing, crabbing on the Chesapeake and lots of dinners – Stan was a true Renaissance man,” Martinelli said.
Budner embraced the adventures of life, particularly after he sold the Delmar News Agency in 1992 to a precursor of today’s Hudson News. Becoming an accomplished sailor and skier, he earned his pilot’s license and, with some assistance, flew into the 1990’s – considered the oldest pilot in the state at the time. He was also a promoter of Wilmington’s dining scene for decades and was well known to many of the city’s restaurateurs.
That joie de vivre was likely a reaction to his father’s death when he was just 50, when Budner was just 30, his daughter Hope Budner Brown said.
“He made the decision to work hard and play hard,” she recalled.
In the process, he made countless friends and mentees in the First State and beyond.
“People just seemed attracted to him because he was interested in them too,” Brown said. “One of his favorite expressions was, ‘Has anyone told you how awesome you are today?’ And when you tell someone they’re so shocked because nobody is.”
DeVivo agreed, adding that Budner “had a quiet demeanor and respected people and paid attention to them. It didn’t matter who they were. I don’t know how many restaurants I’ve been to with him and he showed that respect towards waiters and waitresses.”
Budner was deceased by his first wife, Doris Hollett Budner, and is survived by his second wife, Momilani Budner; daughters Hope, Faith and Alisa; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.