Over the course of this year, Black Enterprise has celebrated its 45th anniversary by profiling great moments with the nation’s largest Black-owned businesses. On December 12th, the magazine presented moment number 20 on its list, when Cathy Hughes took Radio One Inc. public, marking the first time a Black woman ran a company listed on NASDAQ.
“By 2007, she helped Radio One reach a peak of owning 70 stations in 22 markets. Today, Urban One Inc. is the largest diversified media company primarily targeting African American consumers, reaching some 82% of Black U.S. households. The Silver Spring, Maryland-based company is No. 9 on the 2017 Top 100 list with annual revenue of $456 million,” writes Black Enterprise. At the time it went public, Radio One was a hot stock, one of the most successful IPOs for the time of any company of its size and scope, not just Black-owned. Radio One’s market value hit about $1.8 billion as the stock soared on NASDAQ over its offering price of $24 a share to $96.50 within seven months, up more than 400%.
What did the company do with its success? Expand, of course. Radio One, Inc. acquired acquiring 12 stations in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami, and Greenville, South Carolina, from Clear Channel for a whopping $1.3 billion. Moreover, it spent $40 million to purchase three Indianapolis radio stations and a low-powered TV station from Shirk Inc., and another $24 million in cash and stock for six radio stations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia, from Davis Broadcasting. By doing this, it was able to expand its footprint, offering package deals to advertisers who were looking to take a national step into the urban market.
In time, Hughes would step into the television market along with her son. In 2004, Hughes launched cable network TV One in partnership with mammoth cable operator Comcast. With BET being sold to Viacom, Hughes now runs the only Black-owned cable channel in the nation, reaching 59 million homes.
It wasn’t always easy, though, especially in the beginning. Hughes and then-husband Dewey Hughes ought financing to buy their own radio station and were rejected by 32 banks until they secured financing in 1980 to buy WOL, a small Washington, D.C. station that spawned Radio One. Today, she commands a net worth of $460 million, and Howard University’s communications school now has her name.