February 11, 1927
|Died||September 10, 2009(aged 82)|
University of Virginia (undergraduate)|
Chairman and CEO, |
|Net worth||US$2.3 billion (2007)|
Frank Batten, Jr.|
Mary Elizabeth Batten
Dorothy Martin Batten
Frank Batten (February 11, 1927 – September 10, 2009) was a co-founder of the first nationwide, 24-hour cable weather channel, The Weather Channel. His media company, Landmark Media Enterprises, owns nine daily newspapers, more than 50 weekly newspapers, television stations in Las Vegas and Nashville, and a national chain of classified advertising publications.
Batten assumed leadership in 1954 of two newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star in Norfolk, Virginia, parlaying those papers into a media conglomerate by acquiring other newspapers, radio stations, and television stations and establishing a cable outlet as well as the national cable weather channel. Until 2008, the company, Landmark Communications, now Landmark Media Enterprises, was one of the country’s largest privately held media companies.
Batten was born on February 11, 1927 to Frank Batten, a bank auditor, and Dorothy Martin Batten, the daughter of a wealthy Norfolk family. After the death of his father the following year, Batten and his mother moved in with his aunt and uncle, Fay and Samuel L. Slover. A Jewish native of Tennessee, Slover had taken ownership of a newspaper in Newport News, Virginia, which he sold in 1907 to buy what would become the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch. Themselves childless, the Slovers raised young Frank as their own son.
Batten attended the Culver Academies, a boarding school in Indiana, to graduate in 1945 and later attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He then received his MBA from Harvard in 1952.
Batten professionalized the newspaper he inherited in 1954 at age 27, and went on to acquire the Portsmouth Star, which he later merged with the Ledger-Dispatch to form the Ledger-Star. During his early days as publisher of The Virginian-Pilot, Batten championed desegregation, a position not often taken in the state of Virginia during the 1950s; Virginia, like much of the American South, was undergoing deep resistance to the movement. In 1960 The Virginian-Pilot received a Pulitzer Prize for articles written in support of racial desegregation.
In 1965 Batten acquired The Greensboro Daily News and The Greensboro Record, adding The Roanoke Times in 1969. Together with The Virginian-Pilot, these papers made up the core of the Landmark Publishing business. Under Landmark Publishing many other papers were started and acquired, including dailies, weeklies, community papers, and military papers across the southern and western parts of the United States.
Birth of The Weather Channel
When John Coleman, former WLS-TV Chicago chief meteorologist and Good Morning America forecaster, suggested creating a 24-hour cable weather station, the idea confirmed what Batten had learned at The Virginian-Pilot, that readers prioritized weather information as a primary reason for purchasing the daily paper.
The Weather Channel debuted on May 2, 1982, after 10 months in development. Although initially criticized, The Weather Channel ultimately thrived and expanded to include its sister web site, Weather.com, which receives more than 300 million visits per month.
In 2002, on its 20th anniversary, Batten co-authored The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of a Media Phenomenon, recounting the creation of The Weather Channel.
Batten became the first Rector of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, served on the boards of the College of William and Mary and Hollins University, and served as Vice Chairman of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
His gifts to schools and institutions include $32 million to the Harvard Business School, $60 million to the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, $32 million to Old Dominion University, and various scholarships, such as the Batten Scholarship at the Culver Academies. On April 12, 2007, Batten made a gift of $100 million to the University of Virginia, the largest gift in the University's history, to establish the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and in 2006, $2 million to Hollins University.
In 2009, he also started the $50 million Batten Challenge at the Culver Academies, where he would match every dollar donated to the school during 2009-2010 with a dollar of his own.
Frank Batten lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia with his wife Jane Parke Batten. They had two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Dorothy, and son Frank Batten, Jr., who succeeded his father as Chairman and CEO of Landmark Communications on January 1, 1998, and has been leading Sunday night Bible study group at Tabernacle Church of Norfolk.
In 2007 Frank Batten was listed as the 190th richest person in the United States, according to Forbes 400, with a net worth of approximately $2.3 billion.
Batten owned one of the Chesapeake Bay's largest racing yachts, the Shadow.
- "Frank Batten Sr., retired Landmark chairman, dies at 82". Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- Miller, Stephan (September 11, 2009). "He Put the Weather Channel On the Radar of Millions". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on September 14, 2009.
- Hevesi, Dennis (September 10, 2009). "Frank Batten Sr., Media Executive and Founder of Weather Channel, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
- Swift, Earl (September 10, 2009). "Frank Batten Sr., founder of Roanoke Times parent company, dies at 82". The Roanoke Times. Archived from the original on September 30, 2012.
- Schudel, Matt (September 11, 2009). "Frank Batten Sr., 82: Media Magnate, Philanthropist Launched the Weather Channel". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
- Amy Blitz (February 2000). "Interview with Frank Batten" (PDF). Harvard Business School. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
- Frank Batten, Jeffrey L. Cruikshank (2002). The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of a Media Phenomenon. Harvard Business Press. ISBN 978-1-57851-559-2.
- "Media Company Founder Frank Batten Donates $170 Million for Education". March 16, 2003. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
- Philip Walzer (March 12, 2003). "Landmark's Frank Batten Gives $32 Million to Old Dominion Biggest Gift in School's History to Create Faculty Chairs, Finance Research". Retrieved February 28, 2009.
- "Largest Gift in University History: Frank Batten Sr. Gives $100 Million to Create New School of Leadership and Public Policy at U.Va". April 12, 2007. Archived from the original on May 7, 2007.
- Katherine Walker (February 10, 2006). "Hollins Receives $2 Million Gift from Batten Family to Support Leadership Institute" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 19, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
- "Slate 60 Appearances by Frank Batten Sr". 2007. Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
- Lon Wagner (December 17, 1997). "Frank Batten to Pass Landmark's Torch to his Son Media Company Includes Pilot, Weather Channel". The Virginia Pilot.
- Walzer, Philip (June 1, 2008). "Frank Batten Jr. breaks with the past and pursues a new calling". HamptonRoads.com. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- "The 400 Richest Americans". Forbes. September 17, 2008.
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