2004 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"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 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, as were his parents. At the time, the community of 7,000 relied heavily on mining, timber, and agriculture. Hagadone was born during the Depression. 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 went to work for the local newspaper as an advertising salesman. Hagadone grew up greatly admiring his father, a hard worker with high morals and ethics.
From the beginning, Hagadone had a strong work ethic. He had a love of the outdoors and at the age of nine took care of 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 says he was ambitious, hard working, and a 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. If anyone called in sick, he also did their routes. "Working at the paper was a way of seeing more of my father," he says. "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 papers production equipment and worked there each day after school and on weekends. When he was ready to graduate from high school, his parents urged him to go to college. He attended the University of Idaho, but quit after six months. By then, Hagadone's father was the publisher of Coeur d-Alene's 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 mining community in Idaho to sell subscriptions door to door. Hagadone did this difficult task well and eventually his father assigned him to 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. Their goal was to build one paper into a group of papers, but their dream was never realized. Hagadone's father suddenly became ill with cancer at the age of 49 and died. At the time, Hagadone was 26 and the loss of his father was a tragedy he could hardly comprehend. "To this day, I consider him my closest friend," he says. "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 the paper's publisher. But their 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. Hagadone told the owners he would do everything possible to succeed.
Hagadone worked hard and the paper began to grow. When it became the most successful paper in the Scripps group, they wanted to give Hagadone more responsibility. He accepted in return for some financial interest in the papers they were buying. He lived modestly and put all that he could into modernizing each facility. By 1976, the Hagadone Newspaper Company, a division of the Scripps League, owned 17 papers. Hagadone wanted to be on his own. He and the Scripps brothers divided the papers they jointly owned and he came away the full owner of six newspapers. That was the beginning of the Hagadone Corporation, which today includes four divisions in hospitality, real estate, newspapers, and investments. He owns about 100 buildings and development sites throughout the western United States. In 1986, Hagadone completed the Coeur d'Alene Resort, a 338-room hotel on the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene. In the early 1990s, he added to the resort a golf course that has the only floating green in the world. Another Hagadone division is based in Hawaii and includes that state's largest printing company and 13 Hawaii tourist publications. This group also prints telephone directories in five states and owns an advertising agency and commercial photography studio.
"I love what I do," says Hagadone, "and I feel I haven't worked a day in my life. 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. 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."