For quite some time, Miami city Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has represented himself as the grandson of the late commercial radio and television pioneer “General” David Sarnoff.
The Russian-American media executive rose through the ranks of the Radio Corporation of America, holding the title of chairman for more than two decades until his retirement in 1970. As RCA’s president in 1939, David Sarnoff launched NBC, the nation’s first TV network. That’s a grandpa any ambitious tyke would love to call his own, and Marc Sarnoff has.
The thing is, the Sarnoff clan has no idea who Marc Sarnoff is.
The commissioner’s online bio states, “the ‘General’ David Sarnoff is also the grandfather of Marc David Sarnoff.... As his grandfather, he believes in establishing solutions for information, networking, and multimedia communications....” (As of today, the bio has been removed.)
This past October 16, as the guest of honor at an Urban Environment League dinner forum, the commissioner discussed his grandfather, though he didn’t have much to share regarding his parents’ splitup when he was eight years old.
“You won’t hear me speak much about the Sarnoff side of the family,” Sarnoff explained. “My grandfather died right around the time my parents were getting divorced. I do remember he would love to watch me go to swim meets when I was a young boy.”
Could it be the commissioner doesn’t have many memories of David Sarnoff because they are not really blood relatives? That’s what the man charged with preserving the media tycoon’s legacy says. Alex Magoun, executive director of the David Sarnoff Library in Princeton, New Jersey, insists Marc Sarnoff, who was born on December 18, 1959, is not one of David Sarnoff’s nine grandchildren.
“It is quite a puzzle,” Magoun says. “David Sarnoff had three sons, each of whom had three children of their own. None of them were born in 1959 and none of them are named Marc.”
So Riptide checked New York newspapers, Internet resources, and author Eugene Lyons’s 1966 tome David Sarnoff: A Biography to trace the commissioner’s genealogy, all of which confirm Magoun’s assertion that the commish is not one of those Sarnoffs.
On Monday, Sarnoff attempted to correct the record. David is his great-uncle, not his granddaddy. “I know very little about my family,” he said. “My understanding is that he is my great-uncle or something like that.”
David’s connection with the Sarnoff clan ended in 1969, when his father Joel divorced his mother, the commissioner added. “I don’t know my grandfather’s name,” Sarnoff replied when asked the identity of his paternal granddad. “I just remember he had big hands.”
David had three brothers and one sister: Irving, Lou, Morris, and Edie. None them had a son named Joel or a grandson named Marc, according to Paula Sarnoff, Irving’s 81-year-old daughter.
“I haven’t a clue who this man is,” she says of the commissioner. “He is certainly not David’s grandson, nephew, or otherwise. He is not related to us.” — Francisco Alvarado