While Hearst is perhaps better known for the above media holdings, the company also has significant businesses in the business information section, where it owns companies including Fitch Ratings, First Databank, and others.
An ad asking automakers to place ads in Hearst chain, noting their circulation
In the 1920s and 1930s, Hearst owned the biggest media conglomerate in the world, which included a number of magazines and newspapers in major cities. Hearst also began acquiring radio stations to complement his papers. Hearst saw financial challenges in the early 1920s, during which time he was subsidizing funds from his corporation to fund the construction of Hearst Castle in San Simeon and movie production at Cosmopolitan Productions. This eventually lead to the merger of the magazine Hearst International with Cosmopolitan in 1925.
In addition to print and radio, Hearst established Cosmopolitan Pictures in the early 1920s, distributing his films under the newly created Metro Goldwyn Mayer. In 1929, Hearst and MGM created the Hearst Metrotone newsreels.
Retrenching after the Great Depression
The Great Depression had a negative impact on Hearst and his publications. Cosmopolitan Book was sold to Farrar & Rinehart in 1931. After two years of leasing them to her, Hearst had to sell the Washington Times and Herald to Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson (of the McCormick-Patterson family that owned the Chicago Tribune) in 1939 who merged them to form the Washington Times-Herald. That year he also bought the Milwaukee Sentinel from Paul Block (who bought it from the Pfisters in 1929), absorbing his afternoon Wisconsin News into the morning publication. Also in 1939, he sold the Atlanta Georgian to Cox Newspapers, which merged it with the Atlanta Journal.
Hearst, with his chain now owned by his creditors after a 1937 liquidation, also had to merge some of his morning papers into his afternoon papers. In Chicago, he combined the morning Herald-Examiner and the afternoon American into the Herald-American in 1939. This followed the 1937 combination of the New York Evening Journal and the morning American into the New York Journal-American, the sale of the Omaha Daily Bee to the World-Herald. Abandoning the morning market was harmful in the long run for Hearst's media holdings as most of his remaining newspapers became afternoon papers. Newspapers in Rochester, Syracuse and Fort Worth were sold or closed.
Afternoon papers were a profitable business in pre-television days, often outselling their morning counterparts featuring stock market information in early editions, while later editions were heavy on sporting news with results of baseball games and horse races. Afternoon papers also benefited from continuous reports from the battlefront during World War II. After the war, however, both television news and suburbs experienced an explosive growth; thus, evening papers were more affected than those published in the morning, whose circulation remained stable while their afternoon counterparts' sales plummeted. Another major blow was the fact that beginning in the 1950s, football and baseball games were being played later in the afternoon to fit television schedules and now stretched through early in the evening, preventing afternoon papers from publishing all the results.
In 1965, the Hearst Corporation began pursuing Joint Operating Agreements (JOA's). It reached the first agreement with the DeYoung family, proprietors of the afternoon San Francisco Chronicle, which began to produce a joint Sunday edition with the Examiner. In turn, the Examiner became an evening publication, absorbing the News-Call-Bulletin. The following year, the Journal-American reached another JOA with another two landmark New York City papers: the New York Herald Tribune and Scripps-Howard's World-Telegram and Sun to form the New York World Journal Tribune (recalling the names of the city's mid-market dailies), which collapsed after only a few months.
The 1962 merger of the Herald-Express and Examiner in Los Angeles led to the termination of many journalists who began to stage a 10-year strike in 1967. The effects of the strike accelerated the pace of the company's demise, with the Herald Examiner ceasing publication November 2, 1989.
On November 8, 1990, Hearst Corporation acquired the remaining 20% stake of ESPN, Inc. from RJR Nabisco for a price estimated between $165 million and $175 million. The other 80% has been owned by The Walt Disney Company since 1996. Over the last 25 years, the ESPN investment is said to have accounted for at least 50% of total Hearst Corp profits and is worth at least $13 billion.
In 1999, Hearst sold its Avon and Morrow book publishing activities to HarperCollins.
In 2000, the Hearst Corp. pulled another "switcheroo" by selling its flagship and "Monarch of the Dailies", the afternoon San Francisco Examiner, and acquiring the long-time competing, but now larger morning paper, San Francisco Chronicle from the Charles de Young family. The San Francisco Examiner is now published as a daily freesheet.
In December 2003, Marvel Entertainment acquired Cover Concepts from Hearst, to extend Marvel's demographic reach among public school children.
On February 20, 2014, Hearst Magazines International appointed Gary Ellis to the new position, Chief Digital Officer. That December, DreamWorks Animation sold a 25% stake in AwesomenessTV for $81.25 million to Hearst.
In January 2017, Hearst announced that it had acquired a majority stake in Litton Entertainment. Its CEO, Dave Morgan, was a former employee of Hearst.
On January 23, 2017, Hearst announced that it had acquired the business operations of The Pioneer Group from fourth-generation family owners Jack and John Batdorff. The Pioneer Group was a Michigan-based communications network that circulates print and digital news to local communities across the state. In addition to daily newspapers, The Pioneer and Manistee News Advocate, Pioneer published three weekly papers and four local shopper publications, and operated a digital marketing services business. The acquisition brought Hearst Newspapers to publishing 19 daily and 61 weekly papers.
In October 2017, Hearst announced it would acquire the magazine and book businesses of Rodale, with some sources reporting the purchase price as about $225 million. The transaction was expected to close in January following government approvals.
On March 4, 1887, he turned the Examiner over to his son, 23-year-old William Randolph Hearst, who was named editor and publisher. William Hearst died in 1951, at age 88.
In 1951, Richard E. Berlin, who had served as president of the company since 1943, succeeded William Hearst as chief executive officer. Berlin retired in 1973.William Randolph Hearst Jr. claimed in 1991 that Berlin had suffered from Alzheimer's disease starting in the mid-1960s and that caused him to shut down several Hearst newspapers without just cause.
From 1973 to 1975, Frank Massi, a longtime Hearst financial officer, served as president, during which time he carried out a financial reorganization followed by an expansion program in the late 1970s.
From 1975 to 1979, John R. Miller was Hearst president and chief executive officer.
Frank Bennack served as CEO and president from 1979 to 2002, when he became vice chairman, returning as CEO from 2008 to 2013, and remains executive vice chairman.
Victor F. Ganzi served as president and CEO from 2002 to 2008.
Steven Swartz has been president since 2012 and CEO since 2013.
Operating group heads
David Carey is the current chairman and group head of the magazines. Troy Young is that unit's president.
Jeffrey M. Johnson became president of Hearst Newspapers in 2018 upon the promotion of Mark Aldam to executive vice president and chief operating officer of the parent company.
Under William Randolph Hearst's will, a common board of thirteen trustees (its composition fixed at five family members and eight outsiders) administers the Hearst Foundation, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and the trust that owns (and selects the 24-member board of) the Hearst Corporation (immediate parent of Hearst Communications which shares the same officers). The foundations shared ownership until tax law changed to prevent this.
In 2009, it was estimated to be the largest private company managed by trustees in this way. As of 2017, the trustees are:
Ana Balson, granddaughter of fifth son, David Whitmire Hearst Sr.