Blood is thicker than water, but ratings are really what counts, according to Bruce Beasley, who has overseen the operation of his family's 42-station radio group for the past three years.
The Beasley family is close-knit-five siblings, four in the business-but professionalism has dominated from the beginning, Bruce Beasley says. The only difference now that the radio group is public is that he reports to shareholders well beyond immediate family members. "My job is to create value for stockholders, whether it's my family or an institution," he says.
Beasley was virtually born into the business. His father, George G. Beasley, founded the company in 1961. Like the members of several other renowned parent-offspring radio teams, Bruce Beasley decided to stay in the family business-after his chemistry grades dashed his dreams of being a veterinarian.
He enjoyed his on-air stints at Beasley stations during high school but knew that "the money was in sales." On graduating from Eastern Carolina University, he took a sales job at his father's AM in small Kinston, N.C.
Despite being the owner's son, "[Bruce Beasley] started at the bottom," his father says. "I insisted on that."
Father still holds son to high standards. Bruce Beasley "has had a fair amount of success as president and COO of this company," George Beasley says, "and he continues to grow in that position." Far from damning his son with faint praise, Beasley, who chairs the firm, notes, "I don't think that I could ever be totally happy with anyone" in that position.
Bruce Beasley is used to the pressure. His father was principal of the school he attended.
But the pressure has grown even more intense since the Naples, Fla.-based company, the nation's No. 16 group by revenue, went public on Feb. 11. Bruce Beasley says he has had to adjust to a Wall Street that is "a little shortsighted." (Beasley stock is down about 40% from its offering price, a better showing than the 50% average of most other radio stocks in the past nine months [B & C, Oct. 9].)
Beasley knows that hiring high-quality employees will ensure the company's long-term success, says W. Timothy Wallace, a media analyst at Banc of America Securities, which helped take Beasley Broadcast public. "He's surrounded himself with very good managers" and doesn't micromanage them.
Wallace cites WPOW(FM) Miami as an example of Beasley's management skills. The station rose to No. 2 overall in its market this summer, according to Arbitron.
Wpow also provides evidence of Beasley's Web strategy, Wallace notes. He describes the station's site, wpow.com, as "one of the hottest-looking."
Where other radio companies have been slow to jump on the Internet, Beasley has its own Internet division to address both online creativity and sales. "I'm not sure how quickly [the Internet] is going to be a large revenue generator," but it will be, Bruce Beasley insists, adding that the company should start seeing some Internet revenue in the fourth quarter of this year.
Beasley's terrestrial radio goal is to become one of the nation's top five radio groups. To get there, he is looking to buy about $100 million worth of stations per year, particularly in top-100 markets where the company already owns stations (its major-market holdings include stations in Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta).
That goal was exceeded in June, when Beasley Broadcast agreed to pay $137.5 million for Centennial Broadcasting LLC's six stations in Las Vegas and New Orleans. And, with about 40% of its radio stations still being developed, "our opportunities for [internal] growth are very strong," Bruce Beasley says.