Radio's quiet powerhouse from Minnesota

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2013 - 6:54 AM

Hubbard heir Ginny Morris overcame a rocky start to become the most influential woman in the industry.

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Ginny Morris chairs Hubbard Radio, which operates more than 20 stations around the country.

Photo: JIM GEHRZ • Star Tribune file,

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The first thing to know about Ginny Morris is that she’s a Hubbard, which means she’s no pushover.

The Hubbards, after all, are Midwest broadcast pioneers who built a lucrative empire that includes KSTP radio and TV and cable’s Reelz channel.

A Minnesota radio powerhouse, she is unrattled by the $85.5 million purchase this month of 10 stations — her second major buy in two years — at a time when some believe radio is as antiquated as the telegraph. She’s unfazed by being a female boss in an industry still run mainly by men. She’s not intimidated by the news that, in September, she’ll receive the National Radio Award, an honor previously bestowed on Larry King and Howard Cosell.

If there’s one crack in the armor, it’s the story of how the CEO of Hubbard Radio almost lost her way on the path to forging one of the top 10 chains in the business. It’s the day in 1988 when she was fired.

By her father.

Morris, 50, didn’t intend to join the family business. As a teenager, she was content being a hostess at a Mr. Steak restaurant.

But in the summer of 1982, right after her sophomore year of college, her dad, Stanley S. Hubbard, pushed her to take an internship in KSTP-TV’s promotional unit. If you don’t like it, he said, I’ll get off your back.

She loved it.

Morris ended up working full time at the station. By 1985, she was manager of the promotions department.

Then Dad came to her with some new advice: Get out.

“He took me aside one day and gave me this strange lecture about how not everybody is good at everything,” she said.

He moved her to marketing, telling employees she had been promoted.

“Everyone knew I had been fired, except my father. He thought everyone was buying into this,” she said. “Being fired wasn’t painful. Pretending that I hadn’t been fired was painful.”

The family business

Morris’ spacious office on the second floor of the Hubbard building, which straddles the border between St. Paul and Minneapolis, once belonged to her cigar-chomping grandfather, Stanley E. Hubbard. He started building the family’s empire in 1923 by playing live dance music on the radio.

“I remember being 19 and coming in and talking to him,” said Morris. “I yawned and he called in his secretary and asked her, ‘What do you say to a young woman who yawns?’ The secretary replied, ‘I’d ask her what she was doing last night.’ ”

Across the hall are her brothers — Rob, who runs the Hubbard TV stations, and Stan III, who founded Reelz. Her dad is right next door, and pops by her office four or five times a day to shoot the breeze.

Stan Hubbard has always made time for family.

  • GINNY HUBBARD MORRIS

    Home: St. Paul.

    Family: Mother of Savannah and Wheeler. Daughter of Stanley S. Hubbard, chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting.

    Position: Chair of the subsidiary Hubbard Radio, which operates 21 radio stations in the Twin Cities, Chicago, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Cincinnati, and just made a deal to acquire 10 stations in Phoenix and Seattle.

    Favorite hangouts: The Lexington, St. Paul Grill and Monte Carlo.

    Favorite activities: Cruising the St. Croix River on her speedboat. Playing games on her iPad.

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