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How I Made It

What Drives Red McCombs

By March 1999Comments

I’ve never had any fear of failure. You have to be realistic about the real world. If you don’t take a shot at opportunities, you don’t have a chance. My first auto deal was with Edsel. In 1957 I was the youngest Edsel dealer in the U.S. I was 29 years old. I was the best salesman in Corpus Christi, and I had the next four best working for me, but we never sold an Edsel to anyone who wanted one. We had to create every sale. I saw in one month that it wouldn’t work. And yet, I got out intact; I even made a few bucks.

I’m primarily an instinct trader. On paper, my deal to buy the Minnesota Vikings did not work. You take the cost involved, you take the revenue stream in the facility, and it shouldn’t work. I understand that. But I’m convinced it’s gonna work because I believe I can increase revenues and make changes, and then the people of Minnesota are going to respond. I just have a gut feeling.

When it comes to hiring, I try to use a little more than instinct. I look to see if a guy has a passion for what I’m talking about. I’ll give you an example. At my first meeting with the business staff of the Vikings, I asked about the plan to sell out the first preseason game, which was coming up in about three weeks. The vice president of marketing said, “We don’t have a plan because the Vikings have never sold out exhibition games.” I said, “Well, let’s get this straight. Kids in the street play exhibition games. The Vikings play football. I intend to see those games sold out, and I will develop the plan.” I made everybody part of the sales force, accountable to me on a day-to-day basis, and we sold out not only the first preseason home game but the second one too. Obviously the vice president of marketing is not with us anymore. He was a good, honest man, but he didn’t see what I saw.

The other part of my business philosophy is that I have to have a passion for everything I do. When I begin to lose my passion about something, I don’t stay long; I’m gonna get out of it. I’ve sold deals that others have gotten rich on, but I have no regrets. That was yesterday. I’m a today person.

B. J. “Red” McCombs was born in Spur and attended Southwestern University, in Georgetown, and the University of Texas at Austin. He is the founder and owner of San Antonio­based Red McCombs Automotive, which has twelve dealerships around the state, and the co-founder of both Clear Channel Communications of San Antonio and McCombs Oil Corporation of Houston. A past owner of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs, he purchased the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings in the summer of 1998.

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