Happy 125th!

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMarch 21, 2012 

When a business turns 125 years old, that’s news. When it’s a really big business, that’s big news. And when the firm has local ties ….

Consider this: When William Randolph Hearst added his name to the masthead of the San Francisco Examiner on March 4, 1887, he, in effect, launched the Hearst Corp., which became a mega-media giant that continues today under the guidance of trusted advisors and various family members … some of whom live or have property in this county.

Hearst’s father, miner-entrepreneur-land baron Sen. George Hearst, had reportedly accepted ownership of the Examiner in 1880 in payment of a gambling debt.

About 32 years after W.R. signed on to the Examiner masthead, and after the death of his beloved parents, he began another pet project, construction of his ranch home in San Simeon. That, of course, is yet another local link, along with the 82,000-acre Hearst Ranch and some other enterprises.

W.R. always considered the San Simeon holdings he inherited from his parents to be “the ranch,” but everybody else now refers to the grand residence itself as Hearst Castle, a glamorous estate and state park visited by millions of visitors from all over the world.

Movie crews were at San Simeon Bay and other Hearst Ranch locations on March 8 through March 10, filming interviews and scenics for an upcoming documentary that’s to profile the century-and-a-quarter rise to power for Hearst and his company.

The full-length film on the Hearst anniversary is being directed by award-winning documentarian Leslie Iwerks (who also did films on Disney and Pixar). The film is to debut in September, along with a commemorative book and companion e-book. All were initiated by Hearst Corp.

Among those interviewed in this county were George Hearst, chairman of the Hearst Corp. board and a grandson of W.R. Hearst, and Stephen Hearst, George’s son and a corporation vice president.

George Hearst has served on the corporation board the longest, more than 50 years. He lives on the Estrella Ranch in Paso Robles and maintains an office in Paso, in addition to his corporate office in New York.

According to his son Steve Hearst, George also was a military helicopter pilot in Korea, and reportedly was the first Sikorsky helicopter pilot to ferry soldiers into and out of battle.

Steve is perhaps best known to San Luis Obispo County residents as the man behind the deal with California in 2005 that conserved the massive Hearst Ranch in San Simeon and through which, nearly 13 miles of prime coastline property was donated to State Parks. Steve also started Hearst Ranch Beef and cofounded Hearst’s winery operations in this county.

As Hearst Corp. states in its anniversary coverage at www.hearst.com, “It is clear Hearst is a very different company than it was in 1887, but, in another sense, Hearst has not changed at all: Our company’s mission is still to inform, entertain and inspire. We are continuing a legacy of innovation — and a love of what’s next.”

The firm wasn’t actually incorporated until July 13, 1920 (as Star Holding Corp.), but the present-day corporation board decided that the Examiner date really was the start of the firm because publishing became W.R.’s passion.

At one time, he and his firm owned 28 major newspapers and 18 magazines, along with several radio stations and movie companies. In the 1920s he started one of the first print-media companies to enter radio broadcasting and in the 1940s he was an early pioneer of television. W.R. was an early proponent of newsreels and also introduced such innovations newspaper cartoon strips — in 1896, he encouraged cartoonist Richard Outcault to expand a simple gag panel into “The Yellow Kid” strip.

Hearst Corp. now is one of the world's largest private companies engaged in a broad range of publishing, broadcasting and diversified communications activities, with some 200 businesses in more than 100 countries and speaks in 35 different languages, according to a letter published on www.hearst.com by Frank Bennack, Hearst Corp. CEO.

(For Bennack’s letter, go to http://www.hearst .com/press-room/pr-20120227b.php).

Email Kathe Tanner at ktanner@thetribunenews.com.

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