Moroney, Former Belo CEO, Dies at 85


James M. “Jimmy” Moroney Jr., who helped shape Belo Corp. as one of the country’s largest publicly traded publishing and broadcasting companies, died Sunday at the age of 85.

Moroney was chairman emeritus of the Belo board at the time of his death. He served on the board for a record 48 years. During his career, he held almost every senior management job at the company, including president and CEO of The Dallas Morning News and president and CEO of Belo, parent company of The News.

He was the last surviving grandson of George Bannerman Dealey, who founded The News in 1885.

“My dad always felt a duty, a responsibility, to serve the company in the legacy of G.B. Dealey. His sense of dedication and loyalty to the company is what really distinguishes his relationship to the company,” said James M. Moroney III, publisher and chief executive officer of The News.

“He loved the newspaper business, and he loved the TV business ? he really did. And he liked people.”

James Moroney Jr. was remembered by others in the business as a farsighted business leader who understood that media companies had to expand into new markets and launch new products.

“Jimmy Moroney exerted a steady and powerful influence on the company’s transitions and expansions over half a century. … In many instances, he was the pivotal influence,” said Robert W. Decherd, Belo’s chairman, president and CEO.

Frank A. Bennack Jr., vice chairman and former chief executive officer of Hearst Corp., said Moroney “was instrumental in Belo’s expansion in both directions.”

Donald Newhouse, president of Advanced Publications, said Moroney helped usher in the era of color photography and video journalism.

Newhouse served on the board of directors of The Associated Press with Moroney in the 1980s.

“He was very incisive. He only talked when he had something to say,” Newhouse said. “When he spoke, the board listened.”

Moroney played a key role in the 1970s in transforming The News from a privately held business to part of a publicly held media corporation. Moroney and Decherd hired Burl Osborne, then managing editor of the AP, as the paper’s new editor in 1980.

“Of all the warm and friendly people I met here, he was probably the most open, the most receptive and interested in change,” said Osborne, publisher emeritus of The News and chairman of the AP board. He was also “the most willing to make the hard but quick decisions about how to improve the newspaper and the company.”

Moroney retired from Belo on Dec. 31, 1986, but remained on the company’s board. He retired as a Belo director in May 2000.

In addition to serving on the AP board, Moroney served on the boards of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, Newsprint South Inc. and the Texas Daily Newspaper Association.

A rosary will be said Thursday. A funeral Mass will be held Friday.

In addition to his son, Moroney is survived by his wife, Helen Claire “Lynn” Wilhoit Moroney, another son, Michael Moroney, of Dallas; two daughters, Molly Moroney Norrett, of Dallas, and Mindy Moroney Penrose, of Nanyuki, Kenya; and six grandchildren.

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