Radio industry icon, founder of $200M company dies at 89
George Beasley was in the radio industry for six decades.
Business Observer Staff
| 7:51 a.m. June 5, 2021
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Radio and broadcasting icon George Beasley — he’s in at least four industry hall of fames — never forgot one thing in regard to his family. “He was serious and focused and worked very hard,” says his daughter, Caroline Beasley, one of five children, “but there wasn’t a night that went by when he didn’t say ‘I love you.’”
A rural Virginia native who grew up working tobacco fields, George Beasley, after a stint as a high school principal and coach in North Carolina, launched a radio station from scratch. That station grew into Naples-based Beasley Media Group, now one of the top five radio station companies in the country. The publicly-traded firm posted $206.1 million in revenue in 2020 and has a portfolio of 62 radio properties in 15 large and medium-sized markets. It also an esports division.
George Beasley died June 2. He was 89.
National Association of Broadcasters CEO George Smith, in a statement, says George Beasley “was a pioneer in broadcasting and a giant in his field, building Beasley into one of the premier radio station groups over the course of 60 years and serving the radio industry with distinction.”
Radio Ink magazine, in testimonials about Beasley’s life and career, quoted several longtime Beasley Media employees, including Regional Vice President Kent Dunn, who knew the radio entrepreneur for nearly 30 years. “In that time I have learned dedication, persistence and commitment to quality is what makes for a great broadcasting company and that came directly from George Beasley,” Dunn says. “George always made you feel like you mattered and you were important to the success of the company.” (The Hollywood Reporter, in a staff-written story, published an obituary on Beasley, calling him a “radio pioneer who built a broadcasting powerhouse.”)
Born April 9, 1932 in Ararat, Virginia, near the North Carolina border, Beasley enlisted in the U.S. Army and then earned a bachelor’s in education from Appalachian State University through the G.I. Bill. While in education, Beasley, “inspired by a commitment to provide a voice for the voiceless in his local community,” according to a statement from the company, also launched a radio station. That was in December 1961 in Benson, North Carolina. The call letters were WPYB-AM.
Beasley was named principal of Meadow High School in Benson in 1962. He took the job so he could be closer to the radio station, according to a 2015 NAB statement on a national award he received. In seven years at Meadow High, Beasley worked at the station evenings and on weekends. In 1969, according to the NAB, Beasley “left education in order to pursue his entrepreneurial goal of broadcasting on a full-time basis.”
That work became the backbone of Beasley Media Group, where George Beasley worked well into his 80s. He stepped back from the CEO role in 2016, when he was 84, but remained executive chairman of the board. Caroline Beasley, who joined the company in 1983, says her dad wasn’t a figurehead in the boardroom. He always wanted to see station ratings reports and sales updates. “His ears would perk up and his eyes sparkle,” says Beasley, whenever he talked business. “He always wanted to know what was going on.”
Caroline Beasley says several lessons learned from her dad in the nearly 40 years they worked together stand out. One was to be an attentive listener. “He taught us that when you’re in a meeting focus only on who is speaking and not other people,” she says.
Another big one was in negotiations: never, George Beasley taught his children, take the first answer you get.
One other key lesson? Humility. “He taught all the kids that it’s important to be humble,” Caroline Beasley says. “Don’t take anything for granted and respect everyone around you.”
In addition to the five children, Beasley’s survived by Ann, his wife of 67 years, 16 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. “He was a big influence in my life and a great mentor,” Caroline Beasley says. “I will miss him.”