Richard Connor: At the Business Press, 40 Under 40 is one of our favorite things

40 Under 40 Honorees
2021 Class of FWBP 40 Under 40 photo by Amber Shumake

The 40 Under 40 issue of the Fort Worth Business Press is always fun to publish as we celebrate rising stars of our community who have yet to reach the age of 40 but are already establishing lasting legacies of leadership, business accomplishment and community service.

Our annual 40 Under 40 Event – held this year on July 28 – recognizes each of the individuals, and as we read off their accomplishments it’s humbling. We talk about their careers and their families and their volunteer work in the community. It’s natural to hear all these good things and ask ourselves why we don’t do more. At least that’s what I ask myself.

I wander back in my mind to when I came to Fort Worth in 1986 to take over the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I was 39 years old. I laugh now to think of how self-confident I was as I took on responsibility for over 1,500 employees at what was then the 25th largest daily and Sunday newspaper in the country – at a time when there were over 1,800 daily and Sunday newspapers. Our circulation was about 150,000 and our revenues were $125 million.

I laugh because in reality I had so much to learn. Luckily, I worked for patient people and our employees abided my learning curve. The challenges were many and frequent. In 1986, a deep recession gripped Fort Worth and all of Texas. Our largest advertiser, Monnig’s Department Store, went out of business in my first six months as Star-Telegram publisher.

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But Texas being Texas, the state and its people persevered and fought back. So did the newspaper. We grew to about $350 million in revenues and had about 350,000 Sunday subscribers. Our employee base grew to just under 2,000.

While I could have been more personally involved in community volunteer work than I was, I did move the Star-Telegram into more civic involvement than at any time in its history. We poured a lot of money, time and effort into civic events and causes – more in dollars and cents than had ever been given by the newspaper. Personally, I devoted time to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, but it was more hobby than work.

My two oldest children were in high school in states other than Texas, so I traveled a lot to be with them.

Still, I can look back and say I should have done more.

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Folks such as the ones in our newest 40 Under 40 class are incredible. They are working, volunteering, and raising young children. Even though we call the event “40 Under 40” we always find ourselves with at least one more nominee who deserves to be honored and this year was no exception. We had 41 honorees.

The Business Press was founded in 1988 under the guidance of Carolyn Ashford. I have owned it three times, starting in 1998, and from our records it appears as though the first 40 Under 40 event was in 1994.

Since that time there have been 910 honorees and this year’s class brings the total to 951. Next year we just might have to expand the class to 49 so we can reach the magic number of 1,000.

The list of 40 Under 40 honorees over the years is more than impressive. The award has consistently and literally been given to people who were destined to lead.

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There is no better example than Fort Worth’s mayor, Mattie Parker, who was a 40 Under 40 honoree in 2013 and was elected mayor this year at the age of 37. We chose  the city’s youngest-ever mayor to be the inaugural recipient of our 40 Under 40 Alumnus of the Year Award.

Producing the Business Press in print and online is hard work but it is work we love and, believe it or not, it is fun for those of us who do it. The same is true of our many communitywide events, from Great Women of Texas to Top 100 to, of course, 40 Under 40. After moving  2020’s 40 Under 40 outdoors to the Coyote Drive-In Theater in deference to the coronavirus pandemic we returned to a more traditional setting this year with an indoor event at Ridglea Country Club.

And as we celebrated a spectacular 2021 class of young achievers with an in-person event and with special editions of the Business Press in print and online, we were reminded just how satisfying and enjoyable our work can be.