Lowry Mays, Clear Channel Founder and Radio Mogul, Dead at 87 – Billboard

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Lowry Maythe San Antonio petroleum engineer whose broadcast giant Clear Channel dominated the radio, concert and outdoor advertising business for decades, died Monday at age 87. His alma mater, Texas A&M, did not specify the location or cause of death in its announcement.

Mays bought his first radio station in 1972 — he actually co-signed a memo for an FM station in his hometown of San Antonio, prompting Forbes to call him the “accidental broadcaster” years later — and quickly expanded. its holdings in Tulsa, Louisville and elsewhere. It wasn’t until he bought a bigger station, San Antonio’s WOAI, and changed the format from rock ‘n’ roll to current affairs that he “just started making money” , as he said in a Voice of San Antonio interview years later.

“Lowry is the classic American story of taking expertise, determination and an idea and wanting it into success,” said former mayor and US housing secretary Henry Cisneros. San. Antonio Report in 2018.

Eventually Mays expanded into television affiliates in the United States and outdoor advertising, an industry he quickly dominated, buying billboards at 65 different companies. “I told our salespeople, ‘We’re not in the outdoor business, or the radio business, or any other business,'” he said. Voice of San Antonio. “We are in the business of selling other people’s products.”

In the 1990s, Clear Channel took advantage of the Telecommunications Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, and became one of the few companies to dominate the broadcast industry, owning 1,200 stations that generated collective revenues of $3 billion a year. In 2000, the company moved into the concert business, paying $4.4 billion for SFX Entertainment, which had spent previous years recruiting independent concert promoters in the United States.

At the time, Mays said the company’s aggressive media consolidation was necessary for its digital future. “It’s increasingly clear that the internet is a critical component to our future business growth and shareholder returns,” he said. Billboard In 2000.

But others in the radio and concert sectors were concerned: a general manager of one of the stations Clear Channel bought said the company was a ‘cheap channel’ at an industry event in Minneapolis, according to Billboard; Eric Boehlert, the late elder Billboard radio journalist, headlined a Living room the Clear Channel report “Radio’s Big Bully”; and a Denver promoter sued Clear Channel, alleging it used its radio and concert holdings in a monopolistic manner to prevent competitors from advertising in the marketplace, “resulting in higher prices and fewer bids for consumers”. (The matter was settled later.)

In 2005, Clear Channel spun off its concert unit into a new company, Live Nation, which has since remained the primary promoter in the United States. Mays’ son, Randall, has served on the company’s board of directors since its inception.

Born in Houston, Mays earned his petroleum engineering degree from Texas A&M University and worked as a summer ruffian on the oil industry’s rig floor. He served in the Air Force and ended up working on a pipeline in Taiwan, where he led 10,000 people who dug by hand. He went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School and returned to San Antonio to start an investment banking firm in 1970. It was then that he co-signed the note for the FM radio station . “I didn’t decide to go into radio,” he explained, adding that when the bank executive told him he owned the station, he said, “Oh my God, what am I going to do now ?”

In 2008, Clear Channel had a market capitalization of $17 billion, controlling 9% of US radio stations and 18% of radio industry revenue. That year, the Mays family sold Clear Channel for $25 million; the company, now called iHeartMedia, is the world’s largest broadcaster, owning 860 stations in 160 markets, from Z100 in New York to Alt 98.7 in Los Angeles, as well as Premiere Networks, which syndicates voices from Steve Harvey to Sean Hanity.

Through his family foundation, Mays has donated $163 million to charity, serving as head of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and chairman of United Way; he chaired the Texas A&M board of directors from 2003 to 2005, after serving two terms as regent. A staunch conservative, Mays regularly donated to Republican candidates, from his friend the late President George Bush to President George W. Bush to Senator Marco Rubio.

In the Voice of San Antonio interview, he gave this advice to young entrepreneurs: “Work hard, adopt a strong work ethic as young as possible, and try to build something worthwhile, whether it’s a performing arts studio or a television station. . Something that will keep you excited so you can keep growing.

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