After 18 years, Jim Dolan’s $300 million company is still evolving.
In 1993, Dolan teamed up with the Minnetonka-based financial advisory firm Cherry Tree to purchase Finance and Commerce, a daily Minneapolis business tabloid. It was the first publication of what became Dolan Media, now the nation’s second-largest publisher of metropolitan business newspapers.
The evolution continued in 1995, when Dolan acquired a small regional public-records company and used it as a springboard to build Dolan Information, which became one of the nation’s largest databases of information such as bankruptcy and foreclosure records before it was sold in 2003. On May 26, 2010, Dolan Media Company was rechristened the Dolan Company to reflect the fact that two-thirds of the company’s revenues are now generated by its Professional Services Division, which provides specialized assistance to the legal profession.
Life as a Minnesota-based media and marketing mogul is a long way from Dolan’s 1971 graduation from the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism. In 1973, Dolan’s entrepreneurial apprenticeship was ignited when publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch, founder of News Corporation, purchased the San Antonio Express-News, his first U.S. acquisition and the paper where Dolan was working as a reporter.
Until Murdoch transferred Dolan to Australia for several months so Dolan could learn the operations side of the newspaper business in preparation for being an editor, Dolan had no intention of leaving the newsroom. In Australia, he learned how decisions like holding the paper for late sports scores affected other departments, including circulation and advertising.
“Rupert thought that before I made a decision or gave an order, I should know the consequences,” Dolan recalls. “I came back to the U.S. better prepared to be a manager.” Murdoch eventually promoting Dolan to executive editor. Dolan was then sent to News Corporation offices in New York City, where he was put in charge of the group doing research and development on new media.
“That’s where I aggressively got into the finance world and the deal side of things,” Dolan recalls. “I didn’t have time to audit courses, so I got the syllabi from Columbia, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago, and bought whatever business textbooks were assigned to students.”