The passing of the patriarch
Stuart R. Paddock Jr., who transformed the Daily Herald from a group of small-town weeklies into one of the largest and most successful suburban newspapers in America, died Monday at The Moorings, an extended-care facility in Arlington Heights.
He was 86 and had been suffering from congestive heart failure.
As chairman emeritus and publisher emeritus at the time of his death, Paddock was a throwback to the days of the newspaper patriarch. Beloved by his employees, Paddock was the inspirational heart and soul of one of the dwindling number of family-owned newspapers in America.
When he assumed leadership of the company in 1968, the newspapers were publishing three times a week with a circulation below 20,000. At his death, he left a growing suburban daily with a circulation of 148,856, 77th-largest in the country and third-largest in Illinois.
"The Daily Herald has been unique in its growth and moving ahead," Ray Carlsen, executive director of the 800-member Inland Press Association based in Des Plaines, said in a recent interview.
"It's one of a kind - a very successful and growing suburban operation," Carlsen said. "I can't think of too many of those when I think of suburban dailies."
Paddock oversaw the newspaper during a period of explosive growth. In 1969, after Paddock had engineered its conversion to daily frequency, circulation was 11,800. A decade later it was 62,700, and it doubled again by 1994.
The spiraling circulation growth sparked the attention of both interested buyers and the downtown news media.
A 1995 Chicago Tribune article described Paddock as the "Sam Walton of suburban journalism." Gerald Reilly, a Greenwich, Conn., media broker, told the Tribune then that the paper stood out because "there's all the right ZIP codes and none of the downtown problems."
The Daily Herald's success, in fact, prompted downtown papers to try to latch onto the same suburban readers.
While suburban dailies in other markets struggled to maintain circulation and financial success in past decades, Carlsen said, "I see the Daily Herald as being in a growth mode which has allowed it to be in a stronger and stronger position in the Chicagoland market."
Paddock was the visionary behind that success, said Daniel E. Baumann, Daily Herald chairman/publisher and Paddock's closest adviser.
"He put this paper on the map. He created a standard for suburban newspapers, and that's his mark," Baumann said.
Paddock's legacy also was the fulfillment of his long-held dream.
"It gets in your blood," Paddock said in an interview not long ago. "This paper is my life. I wanted a daily suburban newspaper, and I wanted to make it the best suburban newspaper and I wanted nothing more out of life. It's joyful."
"The paper always comes first," Paddock said.
So much so that he could recall details from board meetings held more than 30 years ago.
Even with advancing age, he set his sights optimistically on the future and worked virtually full time until he was hospitalized last month.
When the company fulfilled one of Paddock's other longtime goals in 1996 by moving into an office building large enough for all departments, many of the speeches at the open house focused on the journey to get that far. But not Paddock's.
"My dad got up there and spoke about nothing but the future," said Stuart R. Paddock III, Paddock's son and an employee of the newspaper. "He was continually forging ahead."
Even in his 80s, Paddock spoke of plans for 30 years later.
"Most people get to that age and they worry about protecting what they have," Baumann said.
Alex Seith, a Paddock board member from 1972 to 1992, said: "Stu's tremendous quality has always been his vision. He always had his eye on the big picture and he was always reaching out to other people."
His drive never wavered.
"Stu Paddock has been singularly devoted to building the success of the product," Carlsen said. "They've turned resources back into their people and their product."
James F. Walsh, former vice president of advertising, recalled, "Even in the early '80s when we were wondering where our next nickel was coming from, Stu was talking about buying the new presses."
Paddock's willingness to take risks also saved the newspaper. The watershed occurred in 1966 when Marshall Field and his Sun-Times started a daily suburban newspaper called The Day.
Paddock's father, Stuart, was retired and the paper was in the hands of his uncle, Charles Paddock.
Over the next three years, the weekly Herald newspapers lost 40 percent of their circulation. A plan to publish three times a week failed to turn around the paper's fortunes.
"We either had to go daily or die," Paddock later reflected.
Things got so bad that Paddock once was barred from a Lions Club meeting because the paper didn't have the money to pay his dues.
After the deaths of Charles Paddock in 1967 and Stuart Paddock Sr. in 1968, Paddock gained controlling interest of the paper by acquiring stock owned by Charles Paddock's son-in-law, Frank Stites, and combining it with his own.
Baumann said Paddock was responsible for saving the newspaper from a "bloody, competitive fight. He pulled us up by the bootstraps."
He shared ownership with his brother, Robert Y. Paddock, who died in 1999, and his sister, Margie S. Flanders, who died in 1997.
Paddock often said the three of them worked closely together throughout the years.
"We were a close family; we loved one another," he said. "I think we were aware of each other's hopes and aspirations."
Paddock's hopes always focused on growth. Shortly after taking over as president, he turned the paper into a five-days-a-week publication in 1969.
Money was tight, but "my officers surprised me and bought me a Lincoln," Paddock remembered, laughing at what his competition must have thought: "Look, they're doing great. Stu Paddock is driving a Lincoln."
Day Publications soon surrendered and sold its newspaper operations to Paddock in 1970.
To buy Field out, Paddock had to bring in outside investors. Soon some of those investors urged the family to sell the paper to make a quick profit.
"I never considered that," Paddock said.
Eventually, the company managed to buy back that stock, placing it in an employee retirement trust.
Paddock constantly pushed expansion, adding weekend editions and weekly papers in Lake County in the 1970s that went daily in 1984.
In the decade and a half since then, Paddock oversaw nearly 20 expansions into areas of Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will counties.
He often spoke of his hope that the paper would remain in the family after his passing and worked with lawyers to try to ensure it would.
"We're trying to see to it that this paper remains a family business," he said repeatedly.
"He walked the walk," added Arlene Mulder, Arlington Heights village president and a friend of Stu and his siblings, Bob and Marge. "He believed in the paper's motto" - To fear God, tell the truth and make money.
In addition to his admirable work ethic, Paddock was a friend who "was likeable, well-respected and fun," added Mulder, who notes she once presented Paddock with a ceremonial key to the village. "I hope he turns that key and checks up on us every once in a while."
Paddock had six children, 23 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His nephew, Robert Y. Paddock Jr., is a fourth-generation owner who is vice chairman and executive vice president. He has been a member of the board of directors since 1997. Two other family members - Stu Paddock's wife, Ann, and Robert Paddock's wife, Marcie - also serve on the board.
Baumann said Paddock's estate planning was focused on keeping the company intact.
While most publicly traded papers strive to pay annual dividends to stockholders, Paddock Publications never has paid a stock dividend. The money is reinvested in the paper.
Paddock also resisted any urge to meddle in the news side of the business.
"His commitment to editorial excellence was unmatched," said Douglas K. Ray, president/CEO, who for years had been the editor in charge of the newsroom. "Not one time did he ever ask me to put anything in the newspaper on behalf of himself or one of his friends. Even more importantly, he never asked me to keep anything out."
Paddock's lifestyle belied his millionaire status. He lived with his wife in a comfortable home in Rolling Meadows and spent money on the opera, the symphony and Chicago Bears tickets. Anything else, he once said, would just have distracted him from the paper.
After several false publishing starts in other communities, Paddock's grandfather, Hosea C. Paddock, bought the Palatine Enterprise in 1889. While on his deathbed, Hosea said of his grandsons, "I hope Stuart and Bob will continue in the business."
"We knew nothing else," said Stu Paddock, who as a boy worked as a "printer's devil," pouring molten metal into molds to make the type for the press.
After graduating from Knox College in 1937, he joined the paper as assistant editor, part of a staff of four. Paddock joined in writing copy, kept the books and acted as the first staff photographer.
Paddock was a World War II veteran, having served as a company commander in a tank destroyer battalion in Europe.
"I had the honor and privilege of serving with him for a short time during World War II," said Dick Duchossois, chairman of Arlington Park. "He not only was a fine officer, but a real gentleman."
Paddock returned to the newspaper in 1946 and became a vice president and board director in 1948.
It was a step that carried on lessons learned from his father, from the time when the elder Paddock had his boys attend town meetings and take "notes until he got there."
"I try to emulate him. He was a great man," Paddock once said of his namesake. "His employees loved him and would do anything for him."
The same has been said of Paddock. Even the lowest-paid employees called him "Stu." He used to bowl on a company bowling team and in recent years attended some employees' softball games, though the teams were not company-sponsored.
Paddock's thoughtfulness made employees feel like family, said Bob Frisk, the Daily Herald's veteran assistant managing editor of sports.
On the night Frisk was inducted into the media wing of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in Bloomington-Normal in 1990, his family couldn't join in the honor. Frisk's wife, Nancy, suffering from the ovarian cancer that would claim her life, was too ill to make the four-hour round-trip drive.
About to receive the greatest honor in his professional career, Frisk was feeling lonely when "Stu and Ann Paddock walked in the room, looking for me," Frisk recalls. "They somehow had found out I was by myself."
"We just didn't want you to be alone when you were inducted on this big night," Paddock told him.
"I had some tears because I was so moved by their thoughtfulness," Frisk said. "I will never forget their kindness at a very difficult time for me."
Paddock's legacy is rich with similar stories.
"He was a personal friend to many of us, the kind of friend who does not come along often in life, and he will be deeply missed," Baumann said. "He was a very thoughtful man."
So thoughtful of others that once, while single and "baching it" with his teenage son, Paddock suffered a heart attack during the night but didn't want to disturb his son's sleep. So he got dressed and "was waiting for me to wake up so I could take him to the hospital," recalled his son, Stuart Paddock III.
Before the company forced him into a nice office, Paddock used to run the paper from a tiny smoke-filled room that later was converted into a closet.
A heavy smoker for years, Paddock quit in 1972 and lamented not doing so sooner each winter when his chronic bronchitis kicked in.
The only time his commitment to the newspaper was in doubt was after he graduated college with a liberal arts degree and a major in economics.
His sister, Margie, already had graduated from a college and younger brother Bob was a year behind him.
"I didn't think the company was big enough or strong enough to support all three of us," Paddock said.
So in the midst of the Great Depression, he set out for California.
"I was hitchhiking out to the West Coast to see if I could find a job," Paddock said. "I made it as far as Cheyenne, Wyoming."
Cold, tired and broke, Paddock was stuck. Intimidated by the hobos riding the rail and having spent "my last nickel on a sweet roll in the gas station," Paddock didn't know whether to forge on or turn back.
He decided to place his fate in the hands of others, thumbing rides in both directions.
If he caught a ride West, he could end up picking vegetables. If he caught a ride East, he'd stay in the family newspaper business.
"I was throwing stones at a telephone pole when a car honked," he recalled. "Two parents, two little kids and a grandmother. They were going all the way to Indiana."
The family went out of its way to drop Paddock off in Clinton, Iowa, where he had an aunt who gave him $20 and a place to sleep until he could hitchhike back to Palatine.
If that family hadn't come along, there might not be a Paddock Publications empire.
"We never thought about an empire," Paddock said of his brother, sister and himself.
And he refused to take credit for creating it.
"I'm not a writer. I'm not a pressman," he says. "But I want the best we can have as a pressman or as a writer."
Paddock said his greatest leadership skill was simply hiring good people and then not doing anything to bother them.
"I recognize people and their values," Paddock said. "If you choose good people to work for you, they'll find a way."
In the earlier interview, he quipped, "I like to get in the back seat and just enjoy the ride."
What a ride it was.
In that interview, Paddock said he had only one regret about the newspaper he loves.
"I wish I could stick around," he said. "I'd love to see what's going to happen."