Lowry Mays Dies at Age 87


The man who founded the company that would go on to become the biggest radio group in the United States has died. Lowry Mays passed away Monday at the age of 87. The announcement of his death was made by his alma mater, Texas A&M University.

Mays founded the San Antonio Broadcasting Company back in 1972. The name was later changed to Clear Channel Communications.

Mark (left), Randall and Lowry Mays

Throughout the years, Clear Channel would own over 40 TV stations, launch a billboard company and own over 1,200 radio stations, gobbling up companies during the early years of deregulation when radio was the darling of Wall Street.

Clear Channel purchased Jacor in 1998 in a $3.4 billion stock swap, adding over 450 radio stations. In 1999 the company bought AMFM in a deal valued at $17.4 billion in stock and $6.1 billion in debt. The debt would eventually lead to a bankruptcy years down the road.

After suffering a stroke in 2005, Mays turned over the day-to-day operation of Clear Channel to Mark Mays. Son Randall Mays was also involved in the company. In 2011 Bob Pittman was named CEO. Under Pittman’s leadership the company was renamed iHeartMedia and pared-down to about 850 radio stations. The billboard company was spun off and TV stations were sold.

Lowry Mays was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1999 and Radio Hall of Fame in 2004. He was named Radio Ink’s Executive of the Year in 1999 and was on Radio Ink’s 40 Most Powerful People in Radio list from 1996 to 2004, holding on to the #1 spot from 2000 to 2004. The Broadcasters Foundation also has an award named after Mays.

iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman commented, “We built this company on the foundation and vision created by Lowry Mays. He started it all from a single station in San Antonio – and look at iHeart today.  He was also a kind and caring person who influenced countless lives through his generosity.  He will be missed, even as his legacy lives on through iHeart.”

Broadcasters Foundation of America Chairman Scott Herman: “Lowry was a true pioneer who truly loved radio and all that it could be. We will be forever grateful for his unwavering support of the Broadcasters Foundation of America and supported our effort to help broadcasters in need at their most difficult time.”

NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt: “NAB is saddened by the passing of Lowry Mays, a trailblazing icon whose historic career revolutionized and reshaped the broadcasting industry. He founded and built one of the foremost media companies in the world through bold and innovative thinking, while his philanthropic and generous spirit helped countless people during his lifetime of service. We extend our deepest condolences to the Mays family and the iHeartMedia community.”

Former NAB CEO Eddie Fritts: “Lowry Mays was the quintessential Broadcaster who led the industry in group ownership while also stressing service to their local communities…Indeed he was a true leader in the development of broadcasting as a leader of community information and service.”

Mays was a 1957 graduate of Texas A&M University. A business school is named after him at the college. Mays, who earned his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M, was the founder and CEO of Clear Channel Communications. He was dedicated to supporting his alma mater, serving two non-consecutive terms (1985-1991 and 2001-2007) on The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, including as chairman from 2003-2005.

(l-r) Professor of Marketing and former Mays Business School Dean Eli Jones; Lowry and Peggy Mays; former Mays Business School Dean Benton Cocanougher; and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Professor and KPMG Chair in Accounting Jerry Strawser, taken in 2017 on the evening the Mays were presented with their namesake award.

“A really big tree fell in the Aggie forest today,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “We will never forget what he did for Aggieland.”
Texas A&M’s school of business was endowed by Mays in 1996 with a $15 million gift and was renamed the Lowry Mays College & Graduate School of Business. The university renamed the school once more in 2002 to Mays Business School. In 2017, the Mays Family Foundation gifted an additional $25 million, the largest single commitment in the business school’s history. Both gifts were part of an overall lifetime giving of $47 million.

Texas A&M University President M. Katherine Banks said, “We are saddened to hear of Lowry Mays’ passing today. He truly exemplified the Aggie core values. The Mays family has had a remarkable impact on the business school, providing countless opportunities for students and faculty, as well as on the university system through his service on the Board of Regents. Aggies are proud to carry on his legacy of leadership and service.”

In 2010, the Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees honored Mays with its Sterling C. Evans Medal for his philanthropy to the university. And as a result of the Mays’ service and generosity to the business school, the Peggy and Lowry Mays Impact Award was created and given to the couple in 2017. The award continues to be given in honor of those who impact the school through exemplary giving and strong leadership.



  1. Don’t forget his Executive team led by his two inexperienced sons and the weeding out of every inovater they inherited from the companies they over paid for.. The legacy Clear Channel stations were the worst run in the company by far. Clear Channel let the whole industry down and led to radio’s downfall. Mays spoke like Harvard Business School, but acted like an amateur. and took the whole industry down with them.

  2. Some have suggested that Mr. Mays’s outstanding achievements on his behalf include:

    1/ Working with NAB to persuade Congress and the FCC that consolidation of 80-90 stations and staffs must be permitted for radio to remain viable (just as inexpensive PC-based automation was proliferating);
    2/ Obtaining shareholder money at inflated prices during an economic boom based on the ultimately false premise of increased clout and negotiating power with major advertisers, and economies of scale;
    3/ Installing PC automation with cloned formats and dismissing local staffs to increase the net, saving even more by buying automation supplier “Prophet Systems”;
    4/ Installing dumbed-down brand imaging nationwide so remaining listeners would have a chance of recalling on Thursday what they had on for background noise on Monday (Note: no brilliant or artistic segues please, and sweepers should be standardized with animal or other simplistic “brand” name, followed by explosion and deep, phased, or telephone voice giving dial position);
    5/ Unfortunately for everyone else, this brilliant strategy had limited life because the basic product sucked, so the stock declined precipitously and investors lost big;
    6/ Time to buy back the stock for pennies on the dollar and “go private”!
    7/ But there was an exit strategy. It was to sue Bain Capital to compel closing on a deal they must have made while half asleep.

    Consolidation was good for Lowry Mays. Oh, was it ever! Sadly though, it made our medium less important in people’s daily lives. Creativity, the life blood of great radio, became anathema. Interesting, quirky, compelling, unique local formats all but disappeared from the commercial band in every market of any significant size. The corporate mission was not to operate great radio stations, but to minimize shareholder risk. Any “value-added” came from cutting costs, not creating great radio. At its expense, if the truth be told.

    Mr. Mays hit the jackpot, but should the losing stakeholders be applauding? Do we hear cheers from the listening public, communities, real broadcasters and other employees, advertisers, musicians, shareholders, investors, financers, and lenders?

    Well, perhaps in some corners. The Broadcasters’ Foundation named their major annual award after this sterling leader. Could that be because he drove so many dedicated broadcasters up on the rocks and into their arms? Or did the hoi polloi actually admire the man?

    • Nice. Kick someone who is deceased. You must have a lot of time on your hands. And obviously you and other haters on here, are not happy people. Btw, Lowry obviously could not forsee the economic downturns, which were the primary reason for the company’s long term financial challenges.

      • Yet you can’t offer a rebuttal to any of the points that were made. Again, name one positive contribution to the radio business that this man made.

    • You really should read the 96 TCA. If you did, you see that nowhere in it does it legalize consolidation of staffs or automation. All of this would have happened without Mays and without the TCA. The reality was radio was eliminating staff as early as the 70s, and even more in the 80s when the FCC eliminated the 3rd class license and news requirements. A lot of deregulation was done to cut the size of the FCC as part of Reagan’s shrinking of government and Gingrich’s contract with America. That’s what deregulation was all about. Less government. But when you have less government, that leaves companies free to do whatever they want. That’s what happened.

  3. He played radio owner with monopoly money. His company filed for bankruptcy and still owes over 5 billion dollars in debt with a good share of his investors now hedge fund guys. That’s not good business sense. He can take to his grave a large share of the mess radio is in today.

  4. I challenge anyone to name one innovative or original idea the man came up with to improve the radio PRODUCT. He excelled in playing real estate with radio stations to create great wealth for himself. And ruined many lives in the process.

    That’s about all.

  5. Hey drove his company and the whole radio industry into the ground, his company ruined 1000’s of hard working peoples lives and careers. The debt bubble he created for his company continues even after Bankruptcy. Maverick? BS Literally everything he did was wrong. Radio would have been better NOT following his terrible business model.


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