FRANK BATTEN JR.
CHAIRMAN, DOMINION ENTERPRISES INC., CHAIRMAN, LANDMARK MEDIA ENTERPRISES INC., NORFOLK
A storied Virginia media family, the Battens struck gold by selling The Weather Channel, co-founded by Frank Batten Jr.’s late father, for nearly $3.5 billion in 2008.
Since 1998, Batten has served as chairman of Landmark, the private media company his family still controls. Its holdings include Homes.com, Landmark Community Newspapers and the cloud and data services provider Expedient, though Landmark has sold off a number of its properties in recent years, including The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
While Batten followed in his father’s footsteps at Landmark, he also sought his own path to entrepreneurship. He was a catalyst in encouraging his family to sell its newspaper business before the industry saw steeper declines.
The success that drew the biggest headlines for Batten Jr. was becoming an early venture investor in the open source software company Red Hat. The Virginian-Pilot reported that his $3 million initial investment once was valued at $2.5 billion. Batten stepped down from Red Hat’s board in 2000.
Batten has been chairman of Landmark’s subsidiary Dominion Enterprises since 2017. He also is president of the Landmark Foundation and has served on the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation board of trustees since 2018.
PAULA A. KERGER
PRESIDENT AND CEO, PBS, ARLINGTON
In an era of media transformation and streaming wars, PBS, or the Public Broadcasting Service, remains a steady and trusted platform for news, information and entertainment. It marks its 50th anniversary in 2020, with 330 member stations.
At its helm is Kerger, who’s been president for 14 years, longer than any other. During her tenure, PBS’s ratings have risen from the 14th most-watched to seventh most-watched network, boosted by high ratings and critical praise for blockbuster “Downton Abbey” and “The Vietnam War” documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Kerger also oversaw the launch of a broadcast and streaming channel for children’s educational programming, PBS KIDS 24/7.
That kind of reach and availability has become valuable during the pandemic, with schools shut down across the country. The network that became famous for “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is promoting itself as a resource for distance learning.
Kerger previously worked as executive vice president and COO of the Educational Broadcasting Corp., the parent company of WNET New York. She also serves as director of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and leads the board of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. She is also president of the PBS Foundation, an independent nonprofit that raises funds for PBS projects.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, TEGNA INC., TYSONS
Mergers, acquisitions and hedge funds increasingly are part of the media business, and Lougee has seen it play out on his doorstep. He was part of Tegna when it made its own acquisitions — and early this year was on the other side of things.
Tegna, which owns 62 television stations that reach 41.7 million households, was in the middle of acquisition talks in early 2020. Two potential buyers, Gray Television Inc. and Apollo Global Management Inc., valued Tegna at $8.5 billion, Reuters reported. But like a lot of potential deals amid the coronavirus, things went nowhere.
While he watches the market and maneuvers his company during a pandemic, Lougee is in a position to know the players.
Beyond running the broadcasting company Tegna, he’s been heavily involved in the industry itself. He’s a board member of the music licensing business BMI and the Broadcasters Foundation of America and previously served as chairman for the National Association of Broadcasters and the NBC Affiliates Board.
Before Tegna, Lougee was executive vice president of media relations for Belo Corp., a television media company that Gannett Co. Inc. purchased in 2013. Belo’s TV stations became part of Tegna after Gannett spun off Tegna in 2015.
TIMOTHY J. O’SHAUGHNESSY
PRESIDENT AND CEO, GRAHAM HOLDINGS CO., ARLINGTON
Graham Holdings Co. got its name in November 2013, a few months after the announcement that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos would buy The Washington Post for $250 million.
The Washington Post Co. became Graham Holdings. O’Shaughnessy joined the board a year later, then became president and CEO in November 2015, leaving his post at the company he helped found, Washington-based LivingSocial Inc.
There’s a lot on his plate. Graham reported an increase in net income from $271.2 million in 2018 to $327.9 million in 2019. O’Shaughnessy is also an executive committee member of the Federal City Council, a Washington, D.C.-based economic development nonprofit.
The Minnesota native, who graduated from Georgetown University in 2004, brings family ties to his role. His wife, Laura Graham O’Shaughnessy, is the daughter of company chairman Donald E. Graham and granddaughter of the acclaimed late publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham.
A dominant piece of Graham Holdings’ business is the higher education and test-preparation company Kaplan. Graham also owns the online magazine Slate and a group of television stations as well as manufacturing companies and a health care services group.
CEO, GANNETT CO. INC., MCLEAN
Like many media companies, Gannett is struggling to cut operating costs. And there have been a lot more cuts to consider since 2019, when the company became the country’s largest newspaper chain.
But Reed, its chief, isn’t approaching the job as an outside investor who’s never seen the inside of a newsroom. He’s served on the boards of the Newspaper Association of America and The Associated Press. He was CFO and then president and CEO of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.
In 2006, Reed became CEO of GateHouse Media, which last year completed a $1.1 billion takeover of Gannett, creating the country’s largest newspaper company. It owns more than 500 newspapers, including its flagship publication, USA Today, also based in McLean. In Virginia, Gannett’s holdings include Virginia Lawyers Weekly, The News Leader in Staunton and The Progress-Index in Petersburg.
During a recent earnings call, Reed said that circulation and advertising were down, but digital revenue was up, and he would be looking at cost-cutting measures in addition to selling real estate holdings. So far, Gannett has eliminated the CEO position from its operating company and announced mass layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts this spring. Reed has said he expects the measures will save the company as much as $125 million this year.
GORDON P. ROBERTSON
PRESIDENT AND CEO, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK; PRESIDENT, OPERATION BLESSING, VIRGINIA BEACH
Gordon Robertson was a toddler when his father, Pat Robertson, purchased a television station in Portsmouth to forge what became the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The television ministry has become a significant evangelical media source, with a mix of news, analysis, opinion and faith-based programming. Its crown jewel TV show, “The 700 Club” — for which Gordon Robertson serves as executive producer and occasional host — claims that it reaches 1 million U.S. viewers each weekday.
Robertson didn’t start his career with CBN. He practiced law after graduating from Yale University and earning his J.D. from Washington and Lee University in 1984. But a decade later he became more involved with the family business, which includes Regent University, and moved to Asia to spread the gospel. There, he developed missionary training centers, a humanitarian organization and a spinoff television show, “The 700 Club Asia,” broadcast from the Philippines.
Robertson’s father tapped him as his successor in 2007.
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, AXIOS MEDIA INC., ARLINGTON
VandeHei is making it a habit to reimagine journalism, taking on the entrepreneurial risks and rewards that follow.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he became a reporter for Roll Call, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
In 2006, he co-founded the digital news site Politico. The site was all-in politics, whether it was a wonky policy story or Mike Allen wishing some Capitol Hill aide a happy birthday in his newsletter.
In 2016, VandeHei left his role as CEO of Politico and joined Allen and Roy Schwartz in the development of Axios. The news site, which launched in 2017, has a mission of “smart brevity.”
The media model, which includes email newsletters and podcasts, seems to be taking hold. Axios has 193 employees — VandeHei calls them “Axions” — 114 of whom are in Virginia. It also has a TV news series on HBO that began its third season in April.
BEST ADVICE: Find something you love so much, you would do it for free — and then find a way to get paid for it.
FIRST JOB: Dishwasher
NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE RECENTLY: Adopted a teenage son