Back in the Game with a Splash
Former chief of Time Inc. Don Logan has set aside retirement leisure for a more active plan—taking over, from ESPN, the Alabama-born, outdoor/publishing legend BASS and—just maybe—luring it back to Alabama from the swamps of Disney.
Former Time Inc. chief Don Logan
Photo by Dave Precht
After living the fast life in New York City, Alabama native Don Logan decided to retire and return home to spend his days leisurely going fishing and watching baseball.
It turns out that retirement, even when it involves fishing and baseball, can be a lot of work.
“I want to stay busy, but not this busy,” Logan, 67, says, taking the interview on his cell phone while traveling to yet another business meeting. “I’ve failed at retiring.”
If so, it would be one of Logan’s few failures. He rose from a humble childhood in Hartselle to become the chairman and CEO of media giant Time Inc. (later Time Warner). Logan spent more than a decade in New York, working long hours but also enjoying the perks of his position by attending exclusive gatherings where he and his wife, Sandra, mingled with sports celebrities and movie stars.
“It was kind of heady stuff and a lot of fun,” Logan says. “But we never forgot where we came from and where we really belonged.”
That would be Alabama. So when he left Time Warner in 2005, Logan moved to Birmingham and began looking for business opportunities he could share with his two sons, Jeff and Stan. The family purchased the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball franchise in 2006 and in 2008 became majority owners of Seek Publishing, which produces nostalgic gift cards and booklets.
But it was last year’s purchase of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) that truly put Logan’s retirement on hold. An avid fisherman, Logan had long been interested in acquiring the national membership organization, which sponsors professional fishing tournaments and publishes Bassmaster magazine.
“I thought it would be a perfect retirement job to own a fishing business and have to go fishing a lot to make sure your business is doing well,” Logan says.
Ray Scott founded BASS in Montgomery in 1967, but the organization lost its Alabama roots when it was purchased in 2001 by ESPN. The Walt Disney-owned company moved the headquarters to near Orlando, Fla.
“ESPN made a pre-emptive offer and got it. I told the CEO of ESPN that he had stolen the business away from me,” Logan says. “He assured me that if they ever decided to sell it, he would give me a call.”
That call came early last year, and by November Logan had acquired his dream company, along with investing partners Jim Copeland (the retired CEO of financial advisory firm Deloitte) and Jerry McKinnis (former host of the ESPN show “The Fishin’ Hole”).
Logan insists he had no grand plans or major changes he wished to make when he purchased BASS. Instead, he says he simply wanted to go fishing more often.
“I had a fairly simple idea in mind. I wanted to go to all these great fishing places around the world,” Logan says. “But it hasn’t worked out yet. I haven’t been able to get out very much so far. I’ve been too busy.”
Logan might be telling a bit of fish story when it comes to his motivations behind buying BASS. McKinnis says Logan definitely has “a lot of hopes and dreams” about the future of the organization, including the possibility of returning the headquarters to Alabama.
“That organization has thrived with Alabama-type people and an Alabama culture, and Don is so Alabama,” says McKinnis, who lives in Little Rock, Ark. “He may have made his mark in New York, but he will be Alabama culture forever. Nothing will ever get that out of him.
“So I think he wants to bring BASS back to Alabama. It’s going to take time for it to come back there, but I think we will probably at some point really start working hard in that direction. Being owned by Disney, it was an incredibly corporate world that we’ll change over time.”
Logan has spent plenty of time in the corporate world, beginning with jobs early in his career with NASA and Shell Oil. But he makes it sound like his ascension up the corporate ladder—from Progressive Farmer to Southern Progress to Time Warner—occurred merely by chance.
“I just happened to be standing in the field when the lightning hit,” is the way Logan puts it.
That unassuming manner is part of Logan’s personality, but Copeland says it does not come close to reflecting his true abilities.
“Don is really, really smart,” says Copeland, a long-time fishing buddy of Logan’s. “One of his first jobs was doing seismic algorithms for Shell Oil. That’s pretty close to rocket science. But if you just listen to him talk, he’ll lead you astray on his capabilities. He has the intellectual capability to succeed in anything he gets involved in.”
“He could sit at any table with any group of people and most likely be the smartest person at that table,” McKinnis says. “It just may take you a day or so to figure that out.”
For now, Logan is trying to figure out how to remain involved with his various business ventures while actually enjoying what is supposed to be his retirement.
“I don’t want to sit on the front porch and rock all day, but I’m probably overextended right now in terms of what I had anticipated doing,” Logan says. “I don’t have enough free time. I have to get that corrected.”
Of course, much of Logan’s time these days is centered on fishing and baseball, activities that most people consider to be more play than work.
“I know. I have trouble drumming up too much sympathy when I say I’m busy,” Logan says with a chuckle. “I am enjoying what I’m doing. For all those people who think this would be a great thing to do, it is.”
Cary Estes is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. He lives in Birmingham.