Radio Ink’s Lifetime Leadership Award is presented each year, in conjunction with our 40 Most Powerful People in Radio list, to a radio executive who has demonstrated over the course of his or her career a commitment to excellence and has set a standard in leadership for others to emulate. Previous recipients include Lowry Mays, Ralph Guild, Gary Fries, Eddie Fritts, Bill Burton, Gordon Hastings, Ed McLaughlin, Jerry Lee, Charles Warfield, Dan Mason, and Cathy Hughes.Our 2017 Lifetime Leadership Award recipient is Bruce Reese.
Reese started his professional life as an attorney, practicing law in Washington, DC and Denver. He also worked in the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice. It was in DC that Reese met Bob Barker, who was general counsel and vice chairman of Bonneville. Reese worked at Barker’s law firm doing some of Bonneville’s legal work back in the late ’70s early ’80s, until, he says, he was “unwittingly” hired as Bonneville’s general counsel.
“There were a number of happy accidents that got me working for Bonneville,” says Reese. “It was not something I had planned on doing, being in the radio business, but it was something that, as I look back, was wonderful and perfect. I still remember an old tube radio that I had in the headboard of my bed as a kid, thumbing around at night trying to find rock ’n’ roll to listen to from Chicago, New York, and Boston, the big clear channel stations. I loved music and listening to the radio. Maybe it was something that was meant to be.”
The legendary Arch Madsen was president of Bonneville at the time, and he was getting ready to retire. His successor was Rod Brady, who initially didn’t know anything about the radio business but was a great executive. Madsen and Reese were the two new people in the company, and Madsen took Reese under his wing. “I taught him the regulatory side and how this business was different than other ones he had been involved in,” Reese says. “He had almost no interest in anything pop culture-related and now he was running a business that is almost all pop culture-related. I explained to him why you didn’t play the Rolling Stones next to Rostropovich, and he explained to me what a balance sheet looked like and how to build consensus dealing with people.” Madsen started giving Reese non-legal assignments almost immediately, including asking him to work with divisions of the company that were having problems so Reese could help them succeed.
Reese officially stopped being a lawyer for the company seven years later, in 1991, and became executive vice president in charge of the entire Salt Lake City operation. His responsibilities continued to grow, and he advanced to COO. After three years in that position, Reese was promoted to president of Bonneville in 1996. Reese and his team would go on to win more than 40 Crystal and Marconi awards from the NAB, through a philosophy of strong local talent and service to community. Bonneville was strong and ripe to be purchased by a company with similar values, and in 2011, it happened: Hubbard purchased 17 of Bonneville’s stations, in Washington, DC; Chicago; St. Louis; and Cincinnati, for $505 million. Reese stayed on with Hubbard from 2011 through 2014 as president and CEO. Through decades of strong leadership Bruce Reese made a lasting impact on the company he ran and the industry he was so heavily involved in.
Bruce Reese will be our special interview in the upcoming July 24 issue of Radio Ink which includes The 40 most Powerful People in Radio.
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