Roy H. Park

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Roy H. Park
Born (1910-09-15)September 15, 1910
Dobson, North Carolina
Died October 25, 1993(1993-10-25) (aged 83)
New York City
Cause of death
Heart attack
Residence Ithaca, New York
Nationality United States
Education North Carolina State University
Known for
  • Duncan Hines
  • Park Communications
Spouse(s) Dorothy D. Park
Children
  • Roy H. Park, Jr.
  • Adelaide Park Gomer

Roy Hampton Park (15 September 1910 – 25 October 1993) was an American media executive and entrepreneur.[1]

Biography[edit]

Park was born in Dobson, North Carolina, the son of a tenant farmer. He began writing for two local North Carolina newspapers at the age of 12; although he suffered a severe bout with rheumatic fever at 13, Park graduated from Dobson High School at the age of 15 and followed his brother to North Carolina State University.

After crashing his brother's automobile, Park took his first job to pay off the damages; this job was at the local Associated Press bureau, where he worked his way up from office boy to reporter by the time of this graduation from college. He also wrote for the college's student newspaper, Technician, and extended his term of study at college so that he could serve as the paper's editor-in-chief. Upon graduation in 1931 with a degree in business administration, he was awarded the senior superlative of "Best Writer."

After graduation, Park accepted the position of public relations director for the North Carolina Cotton Growers Cooperative Association; there, he pioneered innovative ways of promoting cotton, including "Cotton Balls," with dancers and performers dressed in cotton formal wear. In 1936, he married Dorothy Goodwin Dent, one of the "Maids of Cotton," whom he met prior to these events.

At the Cotton Cooperative, Park founded and published three periodicals, the Carolina Cooperator, the Rural Electrification Guide, and Cooperative Digest and Farm Power, which attracted the attention of H. E. Babcock, the founder of the Grange League Federation. Babcock offered Park a position at the agency, in Ithaca, New York, which Park accepted in 1942.

Duncan Hines[edit]

In the late 1940s, the Grange approached Park to find a way to market their excess food products; Park approached well-known food critic Duncan Hines to lend his name to a brand of packaged food products. The resulting company, Hines-Park Foods, was a stunning success in the American food market, especially with its flagship product, Duncan Hines Cake Mix. Only five years after releasing its first products, Hines-Park was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 1956 for 360,000 shares of Procter & Gamble stock and an undisclosed amount of cash. Park stayed with Procter & Gamble as a senior executive until 1962.

Park Communications[edit]

After selling Duncan Hines, Park began to look around for new business opportunities. In 1961, he used his shares of Procter & Gamble as collateral to acquire two radio stations in North Carolina and established Park Broadcasting, Inc.. He left Procter & Gamble the following year, and began rapidly purchasing other radio and TV stations. In 1972, he started purchasing newspapers; five years later, he owned 40 of them. Most of his acquisitions were in small to medium-sized markets, far away from big cities.[2]

"Park saw gold in owning broadcast stations," said his longtime deputy Johnny Babcock.[2] "They are reasonably invulnerable to competition, not overburdened with depreciable assets, high profile in their community, and while regulated by the government, the franchise for the assigned frequency on the airwaves is protected by Uncle Sam." Park's TV stations operated at a 45% profit margin, with radio in the high 30s, "outdoor billboards in the low 30s, newspapers in the mid to high 20s. A big grocery retailer does well to turn a profit of 2-3 percent; industrial concerns score success if they exceed 10 percent operating profit. Broadcasting was a pretty fat cat." [2]

By 1977, Park had become first broadcaster to acquire seven television stations, seven AM radio, and seven FM radio stations—the legal limit at the time. In 1983, Congress relaxed limits on ownership, and Park resumed buying. Park changed the name of the company and went public in 1983, selling 10% of his shares and retaining 90% of the company. At the time of his death, Park Communications controlled 21 radio stations, seven television stations, and 144 publications; the company's market reach was estimated at one quarter of all American households and employed over 3,000 people. As the conglomerate grew, he often said that he did not sell media properties, he bought them.

After his death, Park Communications was bought for $710 million by a pair of investors using a loan from the Retirement Systems of Alabama.[3] It was resold in 1996 to Media General.[4]

Other[edit]

Park lived in Ithaca, New York for the remainder of his life, having purchased a stone mansion on seven acres in Cayuga Heights in the mid-1950s.[2] He maintained connections to his native state, sitting on the Board of Visitors for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and on the Board of Trustees of North Carolina State University. In 1989, the state of North Carolina presented him with its highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award.

In addition to his media holdings, Park owned a number of rental properties in Ithaca, timber land in North Carolina, and was a major shareholder in both Procter & Gamble and the Tompkins County Trust Company. He also owned a billboard and outdoor advertising business that he eventually sold to his son.

Park was actively involved with Ithaca College, joining its board of trustees in 1973 and serving as chairman from 1981 to 1992. In 1989, the college's media school was renamed the Roy H. Park School of Communications[5] He also sat on the Advisory Council of Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Park died in 1993 from a heart attack in New York City.[6]

Philanthropy[edit]

After his death, a substantial percentage of Park's wealth went to the Park Foundation. The foundation quickly ran into trouble, with Park's two children (one liberal, one conservative) disagreeing about which causes to support. In 2001, Dorothy Park divided the foundation in two, with Park Jr. and his children leading the newly formed Triad Foundation, and Gomer, her daughter, and Dorothy Park continuing to operate the Park Foundation. In 2010, with Dorothy Park suffering from advanced Alzheimer's, her two children sued each other after disagreeing over whose foundation should get the bulk of her estimated $220-million estate.[7][8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.parkfoundation.org/about.php About Roy Park - Park foundation
  2. ^ a b c d Park, Jr., Roy H. (2008). Sons in the Shadow: Surviving the Family Business as an SOB (Son of the Boss). Elderberry Press. ISBN 978-1934956458. 
  3. ^ "Alabama's Pension Fund Learns How Not To Do A Deal". Businessweek. 4 May 1997. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Media General to Expand In Southeast With Purchase". The New York Times. 23 July 1996. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Jones, Alex (16 September 1989). "Ithaca College Honors Donor By Renaming Media School". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (27 October 1993). "R.H. Park, 83, Media Executive And Promoter of Duncan Hines". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Fowler, Kelsey (11 November 2010). "Park family locked in power struggle". The Ithacan. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Gashler, Krisy (November 6, 2010). "Park siblings battle for millions". Ithaca Journal. Archived from the original on 11 May 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2014 – via ProQuest. (subscription required (help)).