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.
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.
“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.