In a message sent to Streamline Publishing co-owned publication Radio INK on Friday, the son of former Radio Advertising Bureau President/CEO Gary Fries confirmed his passing early today, Pacific time, in Arizona.
Todd Fries thanked everyone for their support and prayers, noting that his father peacefully passed at 3:13pm Eastern.
“In leaving this world for a better place, he did it in typical Gary fashion,” Fries said. “His determination and heart astounded the entire Hospice staff.”
He added, “In their process they would most likely have notified the family on Saturday that it would be soon, but in typical Gary mentality he proved them all wrong, going until Friday. For this particular group of people, I thought it would might put a small smile on your face to know that he left on his terms.”
Fries was President Emeritus of the RAB, and led the organization following a six-year run as President/COO of Transtar Radio Network.
At the helm of the RAB from 1991 through December 2006, Fries helped established the organization as a full-service resource center for advertisers, agencies, member stations, the press, and the financial community. Under his direction, membership doubled to over 6,000 radio stations and 1,000 associate, network, representative firms and international organizations in a period marked by a severe economic downturn following the Persian Gulf War and rapid industry consolidation following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
During Fries’ tenure, the RAB introduced or advanced numerous training, NTR and certification programs, and his vision and belief in training led to the creation of the RAB Radio Training Academy.
Fries in August 2005 notified the RAB Board that he would not seek a renewal of his contract but fulfill his duties until the organization transitioned to new leadership, delaying what would become his retirement.
Fries said at the time, “The renowned reputation of the RAB stands on the shoulders of its membership. It has been an honor to serve and represent this industry. I want to ensure that the difficult and long process of identifying a successor will be effective and orderly.”
Fries entered retirement by receiving the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association in a ceremony at the then-new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Fries accepted the award from Bill Stakelin, President/CEO of Regent Communications. Former NAB President David Rehr was in attendance.
During a career that has spanned nearly 55 years, Fries has held numerous executive positions including President of Unistar Radio Networks, in addition to his role at Transtar. Fries has also served as President/COO of Sunbelt Communications’ Radio Division, and as VP of ITC Communications and Multimedia Broadcasting Inc.
He began his career in Lincoln, Neb., where he worked as a part-time salesperson at Stuart Broadcasting’s KFOR Radio while still in college.
By the time he was 24, he landed his first management position at KRGI in Grand Island, Neb.
Current RAB President/CEO Erica Farber expressed “great sadness” upon learning of the death of her organization’s friend and colleague.
“During his tenure as radio’s leading advocate, he provided tremendous leadership and guidance,” Farber said. “He spearheaded radio to the forefront in media accountability, working with advertisers, agencies and broadcasters to further the industry’s understanding of how radio advertising works. He also encouraged radio to embrace electronic data interchange, urging the industry to adopt electronic invoicing.”
Upon his departure from the RAB, he left with the title of President Emeritus and continued to hold a seat on the RAB Board to his very last day. “With a large physical presence and a strong personality he always made his presence known,” Farber says. “On a personal note, Gary and I partnered together on many initiatives and I always found a welcoming partner and friend. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this time.”