Duane B. Hagadone*

Class of 2004

  • Founder, President and CEO The Hagadone Corporation

I haven't worked a day in my life. I love what I do.

The oldest of three children, Duane Hagadone was born in 1932, at the height of the Depression, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where his parents had also been born. At the time, the community of 7,000 relied heavily on mining, timber, and agriculture. He and his family lived modestly, but his parents and grandparents were very loving and supportive.

One of the greatest influences on Hagadone's life was his father, a man who attended college for one month, then dutifully returned home when one of his sisters became ill and his help was needed to pay medical bills. He worked for the local Coeur d'Alene Press as an advertising salesman. Hagadone grew up greatly admiring his father's high moral and ethical standards.

Hagadone loved the outdoors and at the age of nine began caring for his family's yard. When it became the nicest one in the area, neighbors asked him to take care of their lawns. He did that after school and on weekends, saving all the money he earned. Even as a child, Hagadone said he was an ambitious, hardworking perfectionist. He enjoyed basketball and baseball, but he was not a star student. School did not motivate him or hold his interest the way work did. He often visited his father at the newspaper and soon developed a love for the business.

When he was 11, he got a paper route and then added another one. When other carriers called in sick, he also did their routes. "Working at the paper was a way of seeing more of my father," he said. "We were in tough economic times, and those who had jobs had to work long hours."

When he was 16, Hagadone learned to use the newspaper's production equipment and worked there each day after school and on weekends. Upon graduation from high school, he attended the University of Idaho at his parents' urging, but he quit after six months. By then, Hagadone's father was publisher of the Coeur d'Alene Press, a small, eight-page daily newspaper. When he told his father he wanted to leave school and come home to work for the paper, he was sent to a small Idaho mining community to sell door-to-door subscriptions. Hagadone did this task well, and eventually he was selling classified ads.

Hagadone excelled at his job, breaking sales records that in those days were usually bleak. He worked his way up to advertising salesman, a job he did happily for nearly six years. He loved the newspaper business and spent many hours talking and dreaming with his father about one day buying a paper together and then a group of newspapers. But that dream was never realized. Hagadone's father suddenly contracted cancer and died at the age of 49. At the time, Hagadone was 26 and could hardly comprehend the loss. "To this day, I consider him my closest friend," he said. "He was my confidant, my buddy. It was a huge loss. I was with my father the day he died, and I made a commitment to him that I would take care of my mother and my two sisters."

At the time, the Coeur d'Alene Press was owned by the Scripps brothers, who came to see Hagadone after the funeral. They asked him to take over as publisher, but this offer was a double-edged sword. Running a paper was something he had always wanted, but coming to him through his father's death took much of the joy out of it. Even so, Hagadone worked hard, and the paper began to grow. It eventually became the most successful paper in the Scripps group, and Hagadone began acquiring other newspapers. He lived modestly and put all he could into modernizing each facility. By 1976, the Hagadone Newspaper Company, a division of the Scripps League, owned 17 papers. At that point, Hagadone wanted to be on his own and ended up fully owning six newspapers.

Hagadone Corp. grew to encompass five divisions: newspapers, marketing and media, hospitality, golf, and marine. In 1986, the company opened its 338-room lakeshore Coeur d'Alene Resort in Idaho; in the early 1990s, he added to that resort a golf course with the world's only floating green. The company acquired Hawaii's largest printing company as well as 13 Hawaii tourist publications.

"I love what I do, and I feel I haven't worked a day in my life," said Hagadone. "My father died at such an early age and that taught me to live each day to its fullest." One of Hagadone's only regrets is his failure to finish college. "As I went through my business career and got into acquisitions and high finance, I dearly wished I had a strong legal, business, and financial background," he said. "I had to surround myself with good people, and I overcame my shortcomings, but I would not encourage others to do it my way. There is no substitution for a good education."