Paul McTear: Raycom’s Transformative Leader

Paul McTear’s first job in broadcasting was assistant business manager at WPHL, an independent station in Philadelphia, in 1977.

If not for a little luck and good chemistry with broadcast veteran Jack Clifford, it might have been the last for McTear, Raycom’s president-CEO.

Clifford, who’d been hired by the Providence Journal Co. to expand its electronic media holdings, including television, oversaw the purchase of WPHL in 1978. The first post-purchase budget workup he got didn’t meet his standards, and he let station management know.

“The only person who contradicted me was Paul McTear,” Clifford recalls. “He said I hadn’t been clear on what I wanted. I thought to myself, that’s my kind of guy. He had a willingness to stand up under tough conditions. He was willing to state his case and state it well.”

It was the beginning of a long and productive relationship that saw McTear rise quickly to become vice president of finance and corporate development and Clifford’s second in command at Providence Journal.

Over the next 20 years, they teamed up to launch the Food Network with Reese Schonfield (a CNN founder), Northwest Cable News and America’s Health Network while growing the broadcast side to 12 stations.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

When Merrill Lynch took the Providence Journal Co. public in 1996, shortly before its sale to Belo Corp., the investment banking house pegged its value at $3.6 billion — $400 million for the newspaper side, $3.2 billion on the television side.

Ask McTear the transformative forces in his professional life and he cites two: Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he attended college, and Clifford.

“I believe I am who I am today because of my relationship with Jack and how much I learned from him,” he says.

Clifford not only educated McTear in some of the finer points of sales and deal-making, he gave his student a much greater gift: confidence.

“He instilled that it’s OK to take a risk and not be successful,” McTear says. “Any executive has to have the confidence to take risks and know that some of them aren’t going to work.”

In the beginning, a B.S. in accounting from Drexel led McTear to a job at the investment banking house Drexel Burnham. But it was broadcasting that really interested him, and when the opening came at WPHL, he jumped.

Twenty years later, when an opening for CFO at Raycom came, he jumped again. In 2001, following the retirement of then president-CEO John Hayes, McTear moved into that role.

Risk and potential failure remain constants in broadcasting, an industry undergoing a profound transition today. McTear finds balance where he can.

Family’s important, and with four grown sons and two grandchildren (a third on the way), McTear stays connected with the future.

When it’s time to comb out the brain kinks, he and Denise, his wife of 42 years, go pleasure boating on the lake where they live near Raycom’s headquarters in Montgomery, Ala.

There’s what he calls “a wee bit” of fishing occasionally, but mostly it’s dialing down.

“I go out there and create a little bit of distance from my work week,” he says. “It’s a process that enables me to relax.”

This story originally appeared in TVNewsCheck’s Executive Outlook, a quarterly print publication devoted to the future of broadcasting. Subscribe here. Read the other stories in the Winter 2015 issue here.


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