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Robert Trigaux

Let HSN co-founder Roy Speer's passing remind area entrepreneurs: Mental toughness counts




St. Petersburg's HSN continues to show share value to investors during tough economic times. The locally headquartered company would not even exist without the inspiration and bulldog tactics of co-founder Roy Speer. The chart above shows HSN's stock performance since it was spun off from the parent company controlled by Barry Diller. Now HSN is on its own again.

Wake up and good morning. Roy Speer, co-founder of Home Shopping Network, passed away Sunday at the age of 80. Read Tampa Bay Times writer Andrew Meacham's obit about Speer. What I want to briefly salute here is Speer's role as one of Tampa Bay's early entrepreneurs, a guy with a bull-in-the-china shop style whose legacy -- today's HSN Inc. -- is one of this metro area's leading companies with $2.5 billion in market value and a reputation under current CEO Mindy Grossman as a sharp competitor on the global stage.

That's quite a legacy, Roy. (Read a company history here.) When I joined the Tampa Bay Times, then called the St. Petersburg Times, in 1991 the Speer era was still in full blossom. Home Shopping Network was still downscale -- big on selling stuff like Suzanne Somers' ThighMaster or sheets by Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White. Speer's era was also legendary for the gatherings at watering holes on Ulmerton Road, near Home Shopping headquarters, with the day's "stars" in tow. Speer also ran into legal problems when he started running the company too much like a family business than a public entity.

But do remember Speer as a business pioneer who built a lasting multi-billion-dollar public corporation in Tampa Bay. Last month, HSN celebrated 35 years. How rare is that? Extraordinarily rare. That goal is the goal of today's Tampa Bay effort to encourage an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" to start and build more companies here and add jobs. Don't forget that creating a lasting business often needs a bull in the china shop spirit that was Roy Speer.

Peace, Roy.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:12am]


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