Belo broadcast chief to retire Dec. 31

Tuesday, July 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Television group president will assume new duties in 2001, company says

Ward L. Huey Jr., vice chairman of Belo Corp. and president of its broadcast division, said Monday that he would retire at the end of the year.

Mr. Huey, 62, will mark his 40th year with Belo in September and retire Dec. 31. He also is leaving Belo's board of directors but will work as an adviser to the company.

Mr. Huey will remain a trustee of the A.H. Belo Corp. Foundation, focusing on journalism education.

"My 40th anniversary is a very important milestone for me and a perfect time to celebrate a dream career," Mr. Huey said.

Jack Sander, president of Belo's television group, "will step in for Ward" and join the company's management committee in January, said Robert W. Decherd, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Dallas-based Belo.

Mr. Sander will retain his current title and also become executive vice president/media operations.

Mr. Decherd said Mr. Sander is "ready to take on other duties I may assign him" in the future. He will report directly to Mr. Decherd.

In a statement, Mr. Huey said: "Beyond my family and close friends, I hold this company most dear. I will always be honored to be a part of its evolution and the culture and disciplines it represents."

Later, in a conference call with analysts and reporters, he said Belo is "not just a place I've worked for 40 years. I've made the tragic mistake that everybody says you shouldn't do, and that's falling in love with the company you work for."

His first job was as a camera operator at Belo's WFAA-TV (Channel 8).

He was named vice president and general manager of Belo's broadcast stations in 1975 and has overseen the company's growth to 18 television stations around the nation.

In addition to its television stations, Belo owns The Dallas Morning News, Texas Cable News (Channel 38), seven other daily newspapers, and various interactive and cable properties.

"Ward Huey's career at Belo has set a standard for distinction," Mr. Decherd said. "His leadership at the corporate and operating levels is unsurpassed in Belo's modern history, and the company we have created is largely a result of his foresight."

Mr. Decherd praised Mr. Huey for "his leadership here and throughout the television industry" and his influence on Belo's strategy.

"We've also become very close friends along the way," Mr. Decherd said. "It's a big day, and it's a somewhat bittersweet one."

Mr. Huey said he expects to stay active after his December retirement.

In addition to working as an adviser to Belo and remaining on the foundation's board, he is looking at other possibilities, he said. Among them are advising other media companies and starting his own business.

Several months ago, Mr. Huey said, he began discussing retirement with Mr. Decherd to consider "what's best for the company" and "what's probably best for me."

Mr. Huey said he could have kept his full responsibilities until age 65.

But "keeping things 'as is' until I'm 65 is not the right thing to do" because it would be wrong to "just walk out the door" at retirement.

Another option was to begin "dismantling the operating role I have in the company" by having others take on his duties before retirement.

But Mr. Huey found that unappealing. "I'm not very much of an idle line observer."

Mr. Huey said he decided that early retirement was right for him and for Belo.

"I have a great broadcast team in place. I'm extraordinarily proud of them," he said.

"It doesn't get much better than this for a guy like me. I'm at the top of my game, and the team is in place, and it's time to make this move and I view it as a celebration."

Victor Miller, a media analyst with Bear Stearns & Co., called Mr. Huey "a world-class industry leader."

Mr. Huey last year was selected for Broadcasting & Cable magazine's Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of luminaries such as CNN anchor Bernard Shaw.

He has had leading roles in numerous broadcasting associations and has been the chairman of both the ABC Television Affiliates Board of Governors and the Television Operators Caucus Board of Directors.

He is a trustee of Southern Methodist University and is on the boards of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts and the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

Mr. Huey is past president of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas and has been vice chairman of The Dallas Foundation and a member of the executive committee of the State Fair of Texas board.

His other board service has included Children's Medical Foundation of Texas, Goodwill Industries and the SMU Alumni Association.