Clear Channel co-founder and philanthropist Lowry Mays has died

He helped turn a single San Antonio radio station into a broadcasting giant.

Lowry Mays had left a deep imprint on San Antonio through his business and philanthropic contributions. CARLOS JAVIER SANCHEZ (Carlos Javier Sanchez, San Antonio Business Journal)

SAN ANTONIO – Lowry Mays, who helped build what would ultimately become iHeartMedia, has passed away at the age of 87.

It was Mays, a Harris County native, who along with Red McCombs grew Clear Channel Communications from a single radio station purchased roughly 50 years ago into a powerhouse media company.

At one point, Clear Channel operated more than 1,200 radio stations across the U.S., as well as a lucrative outdoor advertising business.

Mays, who went to Harvard Business School to become an investment banker after earning a degree from Texas A&M University in petroleum engineering, suffered a stroke in 2005. In 2006, Clear Channel’s board of directors agreed to sell the company to a pair of private equity groups — Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners — for more than $26 billion.

National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said Mays was a “trailblazing icon whose historic career revolutionized and reshaped the broadcasting industry.”

LeGeyt added that Mays “built one of the foremost media companies in the world through bold and innovative thinking, while his philanthropic and generous spirit helped countless people during his lifetime of service.”

Indeed, Mays’ impact on San Antonio continued long after the health scare and the sale of Clear Channel as he was one of the city’s more active and engaged supporters.

In 2018, the Mays Family Foundation contributed $25 million to UT Health San Antonio in support of its cancer center that now bears the long-time business leader’s name. That gift followed a $5 million contribution from Mays and wife Peggy in 2015 that established a presidential chair for the director of the cancer center.

“When we set up the foundation, we wanted it to have as big an impact on Bexar County as it could over a long period of time,” Mays told me.

In 2016, the Mays foundation contributed a $5 million matching gift toward the construction of new center at the Witte Museum that has allowed it to pursue blockbuster exhibitions.

“We couldn’t get the blockbuster exhibitions before,” Witte President and CEO Marise McDermott said. “We couldn’t fit them.”

The list of Alamo City organizations that have benefitted from Mays’ donations includes the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Clarity Child Guidance Center and the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, among others.

The Business Journal named Lowry Mays a Legacy Leader in 2015.

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.

Click here to read the story in the San Antonio Business Journal.