SBJ/20090727/Opinion

A media visionary, Ray Shaw cherished family, employees

It is with a heavy heart that I share with our readers that our chairman, Ray Shaw, passed away last week from complications from a bee sting. His accomplished life and tragic death have been covered a great deal over the past week, and many of you have undoubtedly already read about his passing.

You’ve read about his amazing career: How he started out as a young reporter with The Wall Street Journal and, over time, built his career there and eventually served for 10 years as president of Dow Jones & Co., parent of The Wall Street Journal.

You’ve read about how, after taking early retirement from Dow Jones, in 1989 he bought American City Business Journals, which published weekly business journals in 21 markets across the country. With the help of his sons, Whitney and Kirk, over the past two decades he doubled the number of markets of his weekly business journals and either launched or acquired and built a host of other publications, including Sporting News, NASCAR Scene, NASCAR Illustrated, Hemmings Motor News, Inside Lacrosse, and SportsBusiness Daily and SportsBusiness Journal.

And you’ve read about the recognition and awards that he received during his lifetime, such as the distinguished achievement award that he recently received from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. You likely read how important family was to him, how the motivating factor for him to take early retirement from Dow Jones was because he wanted to be close to them in North Carolina and build a family-oriented company together. As chairman, Ray frequently focused on family issues. He improved the company’s employee benefits, started a scholarship program for children of employees and took other steps to make ACBJ family-friendly.

But I want to take this opportunity to share with you a little about Ray Shaw that hasn’t been written about as much. Many of you probably never knew Ray or even saw him. He never wrote a piece for these pages, and when he had time to attend one of our conferences or events, he would sit discreetly out of view and just watch and listen, never seeking attention. That’s the way he wanted it. But without his vision and commitment, SportsBusiness Journal never would have been launched. It was Ray and his son Whitney’s idea to launch the magazine 12 years ago.

Ray was a newsman through and through. He cared about the reporting and the writing, and no detail was too small to pay attention to. His entire company was built on breaking news, and the fact that we publish only once a week meant that we had to work harder than everyone else.

It was Ray and his son Whitney’s
idea to launch SBJ 12 years ago.

As we planned the first issues of SBJ back in the early days in the spring of 1998, I recall his remaining steadfast to that notion, that we have to break news and be a “must read for people in the business of sports.” Along with the vision came the unending support … emotional support … support with resources … anything we needed to get SBJ properly launched and on solid footing.

Work was never a burden to Ray Shaw. He loved his work, and you could always tell that he was invigorated by it. He was a visionary. He understood what readers wanted and were passionate about, and he had the unique ability to tap into those passions. He was not simply smart. Ray Shaw was always the smartest person in the room.

He was a man of great integrity. In conversations with him, you could always tell that he cared deeply about doing the right thing, and he always did. There was never any question about that.

Ray cared about people. He always talked about how the very best assets of the company were “the people who were in the building every day and the families that they went home to.” That came across in everything he did and in every conversation he had with you. It wasn’t just about last month’s income statement. He cared about you as a person and your family. You would never be in the elevator with him without his asking how your day was going or how your daughter’s soccer game turned out.

He was enormously appreciative of others’ time and efforts, and people would remark that it was an honor to be asked by Ray to work on any launch or do any project. He respected the skills of those he worked with and wasn’t afraid to delegate and let people grow and shine.

Ray was a straight shooter, unpretentious and completely unassuming in every way, and he insisted that everyone call him Ray. Although he could come across as a little shy at first, he was actually very easy to get to know. Pretense was not a word in his vocabulary. He often drove his truck to work, and at the stadium or racetrack, you were likely to see him in his jeans and baseball cap.

Ray was a great leader and motivator, and he instilled confidence in the people around him. He is often described around our offices as someone like your father or your favorite uncle. And as the fatherly figure in the company, he always gave an end-of-the-year address to all company employees. Many of us were very interested to hear what he had to say at the end of 2008, as we were entering a very challenging year. A lot of the message was about the economy, how the company was positioned for 2009 and how he believed the company would continue to thrive. But one line in particular struck some of us, and I’ve thought about it many times since. Ray said: “I cherish this company and everyone in it.” He was a deliberate person, and he didn’t use that word lightly. It conveyed exactly what he meant.

Ray Shaw touched many lives and motivated many people throughout his career. He was a media giant who, by choice, operated largely below the national media radar. He was a caring person and a wonderful human being, and he will be greatly missed by all of us.

 Richard Weiss is publisher of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. He can be reached at rweiss@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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