The former head of the one of the world's largest publishing empires says he wishes he had done more to promote minorities into executive positions.
Reginald K. Brack, Chairman Emeritus of Time Inc., said in an interview at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday (October 27) that he felt "ashamed" of his record with regard to minorities, but proud of his record in promoting women at the publishing giant (1996 revenues: $4.1 billion).
Mr. Brack was a keynote speaker at the Forum's opening dinner on Tuesday night. The Forum is a non-profit organization which aims to bring together people from all walks of life to discuss solutions to the world's problems.
Mr. Brack, 61, was CEO of Time Magazine Company from 1986 and CEO of Time Inc., which included Time Books, from 1990, a position he held until 1994. He remained as chairman of Time Inc until his retirement in 1997.
While at Time Inc. he had a reputation as a strong manager, who increased the company's revenues from $2.1 billion in 1986 to $3.3 billion in 1993, and increased the company's magazine titles from eight to 24. However, he had mixed popularity among staff. A book by former Time Inc. journalist Richard Clurman described him as a "pit bull" who cut 600 staff in 1991. Mr.Brack said the book was "totally inaccurate."
A Mediaweek report in 1994 quoted an unnamed former Time Inc. executive as saying he let the "special uniqueness" of Time fritter away. However, the same year he won what Fortune magazine described as the industry's highest honor, the Henry Johnson Fisher Award.
Asked if he had any regrets about his time as head of Time Inc., Mr. Brack said he wished he had done more to promote minorities.
"[In] race relations, I think we could probably have done more, and the one thing I have found most frustrating in my whole career, was in getting minorities into key positions of authority in our company. We made a lot of progress, but I feel that it's a personal failure on my part not to have been able to be even more successful. I was very successful in the case of women."
He said that of the five top people who now run Time Inc., two were women. Of the top 10 people at Time Inc., five were women.
"When I took over the company in the mid 1980s, there was a not a single female executive. So I'm very proud of that, but I'm very ashamed that we haven't done more to progress further in the retention and promotion of minorities. We do very well in recruiting, but keeping them and getting them into top positions has been very frustrating."
He acknowledged that executives pressured by concerns to keep the bottom line looking good may find it difficult to balance that against calls to address such issues, but he insisted it was possible.
"You've got to balance those things. What I say in the case of women and minorities is that it's good for business. In a multicultural society and in a global economy, to be anything other than diverse is a handicap. How can you adequately serve those markets if you don't have anybody in your senior management team or board that's qualified? It's like a cosmetics company having no women employees.
"The environment's a little different thing. I think you have to do everything you can in a responsible fashion to progress the environment, but some steps are so costly as to be unaffordable. It took us years to get the paper industry to create a quality of paper at an affordable price that was recycled, and it took a lot of pressure on our suppliers to get them to do that. There's still a long way to go in that arena, but you have to balance that against the cost of doing it, and if it puts properties and important newspapers well into the red then they become extinct and you haven't done anyone any good. So you do have to balance those things, and it's a very tough balancing act. But they're not mutually exclusive."
Mr. Brack said he also wished he had pressured Time Inc.'s journalists to cover environmental issues more aggressively.
"There's a lot of other things I would have done differently, but in that particular respect, [I would have liked] to be even more aggressive - and I was pretty aggressive - with our journalists to get them to focus on these issues to a greater extent."
Since his retirement, Mr. Brack has devoted much of his spare time to humanitarian causes. These include the National Urban League, which is devoted to assisting African-Americans achieve social and economic equality, and the Sierra Club, a mainstream American environmental defense organization, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Americans for Humanitarian Trade with Cuba Advisory Council.
Mr. Brack said his work in race relations and for the environment had been very rewarding.
"Those two things have given me a perspective far beyond the commercial world that I really enjoy and take great pride in."