Wednesday, July 1, 2009

General Tire Company

General Tire and Rubber Company was founded in 1915 in Akron, Ohio by William F. O'Neil. In 1943 General Tire branched out from being just a manufacturer of tires for motor vehicles by purchasing the Yankee Network and the radio stations it owned from Boston's Shepard Stores, Inc. Thomas F. O'Neil, son of the founder William F. O'Neil, served as Yankee's chairman with Shepard's John Shepard III serving as president. (Ad from 1937)

General Tire continued its move into broadcasting by acquiring the Don Lee Broadcasting System, a well respected regional radio network on the West Coast, in 1950. Among other stations, it added KHJ-AM-FM in Los Angeles and KFRC-AM-FM in San Francisco to its stable from the Yankee acquisition. In 1952, it bought WOR/WOR-FM/WOR-TV in New York City and merged its broadcasting interests into a new division, General Teleradio. (Ad from 1940)

General Tire's final move into entertainment was the acquisition of RKO Radio Pictures from Howard Hughes in 1955 for $25 million. General Tire was interested mainly in using the RKO film library to program its television stations, so it sold the RKO lot at Sunset and Gower in Hollywood to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's Desilu Productions in 1956 for $6 million. (Ad from 1947)

The remaining assets of RKO were merged with General Teleradio, and the new company eventually became known as RKO General. The radio stations became some of the leading broadcasters in the world, but the division was dragged down by unethical conduct at its television stations. This culminated in the longest licensing dispute in television history, eventually forcing RKO General out of the broadcasting business. (Ad from 1950)


Ray Peacock said...

Interesting post. I worked in broadcasting 30 years (K.C., Chi. among others), and visited a friend in the business who worked at KFRC (c. 1974) in San Fran then moved to L.A. and worked at KHJ. This was in the "bunker", the old RKO studio on Sunset, c. 1975, as described in the post. By that time, the biggest days of "boss radio" KHJ had passed, but it was still a powerhouse AM station, Charlie Van Dyke was the Program Director, and radio still made the hits.

Cool post Richard, the evolution of a tire company into a media giant of the day, a media that is in 2009 barely hanging on (like print), it's huge corporate owners bogged down in debt in a deep recession and cutting costs to the point that it is now "repeater radio", with piped in programming from central command. The vultures are circling above.

Meanwhile, the web has changed how we get our "content".

thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, I never knew that a tire company purchased RKO from Howard Hughes. Who woulda thunk it?

Wonderful vintage illustrations!

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Some very cool insight Ray. I remember the hayday of "Boss Radio" very well. It was the time when the DJ's were very accesible. i.e. at the Battle of the Bands, Custom Car Shows, etc.

The days of KHJ and KRLA are long gone. But man, what memories!