The company began in 1887, when brothers John Bayne Maclean and Hugh Cameron Maclean launched their first trade publication, Canadian Grocer & General Storekeeper. Brother Hugh left the company in 1899 and later return to Toronto to establish his own publication firm.
John B. subsequently expanded his company into other areas of publishing, launching the general interest magazine Maclean's in 1905, the business newspaper Financial Post in 1907, the lifestyle magazine Canadian Homes and Gardens in 1925, the women's magazine Chatelaine in 1928, and its French-language counterpart, Châtelaine in 1960.
Horace Talmadge Hunter joined Maclean Publishing in 1903, moving up the management ranks from general manager in 1911 to succeed John Bayne Maclean as president in 1933; in 1945 the company's name was changed to Maclean-Hunter. Hunter retired in 1952 and died in 1961. Hunter's son Donald Fleming later became president and chairman of M-H.
In 1961, the company began to diversify, adding its first broadcasting asset, radio station CFCO in Chatham, Ontario. In 1968 Maclean-Hunter Publishing Company Limited was renamed to Maclean-Hunter Limited and finally as Maclean Hunter Limited in 1981.
In the 1970s, M-H merged its Le Maclean French-language magazine with Actualité, and began publishing L'actualité. In 1982, the company acquired a controlling interest in Sun Media; ownership of the Financial Post was transferred to Sun Media in 1987 to facilitate the publication's expansion from a weekly to a daily newspaper.
By the early 1990s, Maclean-Hunter's assets also included cable television services in 35 Ontario markets, 21 radio stations, television station CFCN in Calgary and a significant minority share in CTV.
Maclean-Hunter was acquired in 1994 by Rogers Communications. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the transaction, but required Rogers to divest itself of some of Maclean-Hunter's individual assets to alleviate concerns about concentration of media ownership. Shaw Communications acquired some of the cable holdings and radio stations, Telemedia and Blackburn Radio acquired other radio stations, and the consortium of Baton Broadcasting and Electrohome acquired CFCN and the CTV shares. Sun Media was sold in an employee buyout in 1996.
Maclean-Hunter lives on in the publication Maclean's magazine.
Maclean-Hunter's main office was at College Park since the 1980s. Its previous head office was in a series of buildings along the corner of Dundas Street and University Avenue. Maclean's magazine has since moved to Rogers Communications premises at 1 Mount Pleasant Road (Rogers Building).
In 1948, M-H moved their printing plant at 210 Dundas Street West to North York (Highway 401-Yonge Street). The large plant was built near the home of Robert Earl Bales, Reeve of North York. The plant was sold and demolished in 2001 for re-development as "Mansions of Avondale" condominiums and Avondale Park. Macleans along with other Rogers Media print publications are now printed by Transranscontinental.
- John Bayne Maclean — 1887-1933
- Horace Talmadge Hunter — 1933-1952
- Floyd Chalmers — 1952-1964 - chairman 1964-1969
- Donald Fleming Hunter — 1964-1976 - later as chairman
- Frederick T. Metcalf — 1977-1984 - later as chairman
- Donald Graham Campbell — 1984-1986
- Ronald Osborne — 1986-1994
At the time of Maclean-Hunter's takeover by Rogers in 1994, the company owned the following assets:
Rogers immediately spun off Maclean-Hunter's television assets. Baton Broadcasting and Electrohome acquired CFCN-TV and Maclean-Hunter's share of CTV, a transaction which moved Baton significantly closer to its eventual takeover of the entire CTV network. Shaw acquired Maclean-Hunter's share in the New Country Network, which was licensed but had not yet launched at the time of the takeover.
- Calgary - CFCN-TV
- 14.3% of CTV
- 60% of New Country Network
Maclean-Hunter owned 21 radio stations. Most were spun off by Rogers to other owners; only the Kitchener and Ottawa stations are still owned by Rogers today.
- Amherst - CKDH
- Brampton - CFNY
- Campbellton - CKNB
- Charlottetown - CFCY, CHLQ
- Chatham - CFCO
- Halifax - CHNS, CHFX
- Kitchener - CKGL, CHYM
- Leamington - CHYR
- Moncton - CKCW, CFQM
- Newcastle - CFAN
- Ottawa - CIWW, CKBY
- Saint John - CIOK
- Sarnia - CKTY, CFGX
- Sussex - CJCW
- Toronto - CKYC
- Chalk River
- Deep River
- Niagara Falls
- North Bay
- Ottawa (west of Bank Street)
- Owen Sound
- St. Catharines
- St. Isidore de Prescott
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Thunder Bay