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July 12, 1991 - Image 109

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


By the

0o u

Photo by An ne Ford Doyle

Detroit native
Alan Spoon is the
Graham family's
top lieutenant at the
Washington Post Co.


Alan Spoon is the No. 2 executive for the Washington Post Co.


Staff Writer

lan Spoon, the
Southfield native
who in May became
the No. 2 executive
for the Washington
Post Publishing Co., never en-
visioned a life in the publish-
ing business.
His father, pharmacist-
turned-builder Harry Spoon,
wanted him to be a doctor.
He said no. So Harry Spoon
tried his best to encourage
his youngest child to study
"I talked him into it. I told
him law school was some-
thing he could fall back on,
that he could go to law
school and from there the
world would be his," Harry
Spoon said.
At age 22, complete with a
master's degree in business
administration from
Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, the young Mr.
Spoon still didn't know what
career path to take.


"I didn't know where I
wanted to be," Alan Spoon
said. "But I wanted to do
things that were important.
I always set high goals."
Hopeful he would someday
find comfort in the business
world, Mr. Spoon took his
father's advice and enrolled
at Harvard Law School.
"I was interested in issues
and problems," said Mr.
Spoon, now 40. "I wasn't in-
terested in practicing law. I
wanted to apply it to busi-
He enjoyed law school, but
grew bored during summers
as a law clerk. One summer,
he sat in his office, outlining
options for a major bank that
was foreclosing on a piece of
property filled with elderly
tenants. The developer had
taken the money and disap-
Mr. Spoon took his busi-
ness plan to the partner in
charge of the bank's case.
"The partner said it was
interesting, but that we
were not in that business,"

Mr. Spoon said. "I was not as
stimulated with the law firm
as I was with business. I
decided to go into consulting
where I could give business
After law school, he went
to work for the Boston Con-
sulting Group, an interna-
tional firm specializing in
corporate strategy. The
company provided him with
exposure to at least 20 diff-
erent industries — including
publishing. Still in his 20s,
he was named a partner.
Mr. Spoon loved his job
and hadn't thought about
leaving. But in 1981, shortly
after he and his wife Terri
(also originally from Detroit)
moved their family from the
East Coast to Chicago, he
got a call from Richard
Simmons, former vice
chairman for Dun and
Bradstreet. He had met Mr.
Simmons while working on a
consulting job.
Mr. Simmons had just
joined the Washington Post
Corp. as chief operating offi-

cer, and he wanted to bring
in his own team. On his
mind was wooing Mr. Spoon
-to the Post with the job of
vice president for new busi-
ness development and plan-
Almost a year after the
offer, the Spoons decided to
move to Washington, D.C.,
where Alan Spoon became
chief operating officer upon
Mr. Simmons' retirement.
"Publishing was random,
but it was not without the
purpose and values I was
seeking," Mr. Spoon said.
Mr. Spoon had always read
newspapers, mostly the Wall
Street Journal.He knew few
details about the Post, but
word on Wall Street was the
Post maintained a sound
business track record. He
thought publishing might be
In his 10 years with the
Washington Post Co., Mr.
Spoon has been credited
with broadening the com-
pany's scope with new ac-
quisitions, including pur-

chases of the Stanley Kaplan
Education Center and Legi-
Slate, a computer informa-
tion service that monitors
federal legislation and
tracks voting records. At his
urging, the company found-
ed (and later sold) Cellular
One portable phones.
"We broadened it, but the
heart and soul is publishing
and broadcasting," Mr.
Spoon said.
In addition to the Post, the
corporation owns the Herald
(Everett, Wash.), Newsweek,
Newsweek International,
cable systems in 15 states,
and television stations in
Miami, Jacksonville, Hart-
ford and Channel 4 in
Detroit. The Post also has
ownership interests in news-
print manfuacturing and
distribution operations, the
Los Angeles Times-
Washington Post News Ser-
vice,the International
Herald Tribune and Cowles
Media Co.
Mr. Spoon has held several
positions at the Post. He


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