Q&A: Bob Pittman, CEO of iHeartMedia
"I have to say that it's not everyday that I get the opportunity to know someone who's done so much to shape the world we live in, and in doing so, bring the world a little closer together. Bob Pittman is one of those guys, and for me personally, he introduced me to the world of music thru MTV (which he created in the 80’s), and later as the CEO of AOL, and then my favorite theme park, Six Flags, and most recently as the Chairman of iHeart Media. Of course he’s done plenty of other things along the way, including logging in countless hours piloting his own planes and helicopter, and there’s that tequila brand he started, Casa Dragones, which is certainly worth a mention, but the best thing about Bob, is that he’s just a wonderful guy - inspiring, kind, thoughtful, and he loves his 3x1’s, which certainly doesn’t hurt in my book. We recently had a few moments to chat with him, and here's what went down."
-3x1 Founder & CEO, Scott Morrison
Q: I once read an article where you said, "I love businesses where the product is better than the perception.” That’s such a great statement, and having a product that is better than perception is something we strive for, especially when it comes to the custom & bespoke process. Why do you think this is so important in today’s market?
A: I think the consumer today is smart and informed and much less susceptible to hype. At the heart of every great business must be a really great product. Consumers are always delighted when they find the product was better than what they expected it to be. That’s what we strive for at iHeartMedia.
Q: You’ve been working since you were 15 years old. What was your very first job?
A: My very first job was WCHJ radio in Brookhaven, Mississippi. I was a part time weekend disc jockey.
Q: Many people have said that your risk-taking is one of the many reasons for your great success in the media world. Would you say you’re a risk-taker when it comes to your style, and more specifically, a risk-taker when it comes to designing your custom and bespoke jeans with us?
A: I never think I’m taking a risk, I just think I’m doing the right thing, whether that’s in business or in my personal life. I think having an idea about where you want to go and why is the important thing, and not a focus on whether it’s risky or not.
Q: Are you a collector of anything?
A: I’m a collector of experiences. I certainly have some things, but I try to make sure I only think of them as things.
Q: You’re a licensed pilot! When did that happen and do you still fly? Tell us a bit about that.
A: When I was 15 I wanted to take flying lessons, and my parents told me that I’d have to pay for them myself. I couldn't get the high-paying job at the local Piggly Wiggly, or at the local men’s clothing store, so I walked into our local radio station and asked for a job. The guy who owned the station asked “Do you do well in school?” and “Do you stay out of trouble?” When I said yes, he asked me to read some copy and then told me I was hired. My love affair with radio started then and continues to this day — plus I was able to pay for flying lessons, and flying is still my passion. I have 7000 flight hours, hold an Airline Transport Pilot's license and fly a Falcon 900 and an Agusta 109 helicopter.
Q: And lastly, this ‘Made Here’ question is sort of becoming a tradition throughout all the interviews we do. ‘Made Here’ is part of the 3x1 trademark, but more importantly, it’s the foundation of our identity as a brand. It’s a reference to making jeans here in our NYC store, but it’s also a reference to being American and as such, making things here in the USA. How does the term ‘Made Here’ apply to your professional and/or personal life?
A: Everything I have ever done has really been focused on the United States, and iHeartRadio is a uniquely American product and we pride ourselves on being the #1 media company by audience size in the U.S. There are only two other companies that reach over 200 million people a month besides us -- Facebook and Google — and we are proud to be in that company.