And she also presided over some terrific growth years for our company, during which we started or acquired a half-dozen publications, including Crain's Detroit Business, Rubber & Plastics News, Crain's Cleveland Business and Crain's New York Business. When my brother Keith or I wanted to expand, she made sure it made sense and that we were totally committed to the project's success.
I had a chance meeting with Ernie Zielasko, the founder and editor of Rubber & Plastics News (RPN), at an American Business Press management conference in 1975. We had coffee and agreed to exchange copies of our publications. A month or two later, I wrote Ernie and asked if he and his partner Chris Chrisman would be interested in selling. He said no.
Four years earlier Ernie, backed by a handful of other investors, formed Heer Publishing Co. to start RPN in Akron, known as “the rubber capital of the world.” Chris joined six weeks after the first issue as vice president of sales. The publication became profitable in 1973 and had gotten 80 percent of the market from two competing magazines.
My brother Keith and I were very impressed with RPN's performance, and we went to Akron to make an offer. But Ernie and Chris turned us down because, as Ernie said, “We were afraid of losing our editorial independence. I had heard horror stories about small trade books being forced to compromise their editorial integrity after being sold to larger publishing houses.”
But we kept up our pursuit, and finally Keith asked them to name their own price. They did some research and came up with a number that Keith accepted on the spot with the proviso that both Ernie and Chris stay on. Both men agreed, and it was a purchase that worked out well for both sides.
It led to the founding of Tire Business in 1983, and Ernie and Chris also were involved in the early years of Crain's Cleveland Business magazine. In addition, Chris was the original publisher of Plastics News, which we started publishing in 1989.
Dad was always very astute about putting the right person in the right place at just the right time. When Automotive News came up for sale in 1971, Dad wouldn't have been interested if it hadn't been for my brother Keith, who loved cars. My dad knew that appointing him publisher of Automotive News would give our new publication the best chance for success.
When we bought it, it was losing a half-million dollars a year. Six months later, it was breaking even, and now it is our company's biggest and most profitable publication. Keith quickly got to know all of the important movers and shakers in Detroit, and he was the first journalist to find out that Henry Ford II had fired Lee Iacocca as the auto maker's president. When Keith called Lee at home, his first words were, “Say it isn't so, Lee.”
So many great people have contributed to our success. That's the legacy — nourished by people who cared deeply about what they were helping to create—that has endured for 100 years.
I'm betting we have what it takes to burnish that legacy for at least another 100 years. Chris and KC, my brother Keith's sons, are playing important roles in this family business as exec VPs. My daughter Cindi serves on our board of directors, and my granddaughter Candace has just been promoted to senior events manager at Ad Age.
Thanks to all of you for your support, and we pledge to work hard to continue to be worthy of it.
Rance Crain is president of Crain Communications Inc., which publishes Tire Business, along with about two dozen business publications and related digital properties.