Time’s Harry McCracken has written a wonderful column remembering Patrick McGovern, one of the most successful publishers of the past 50 years, and a huge proponent of tech when it was a far smaller world. He died this week at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto.
I met him in 2009 (above) and was incredibly flattered when he sought me out to talk about how his publishing group IDG was successfully managing its digital transformation. It was just the two of us talking for a couple of hours in his hotel room at the Fairmont. I was very impressed by his intelligence and his gentle manner. He invited me to visit him and also tour his medical research center.
Harry often interacted with McGovern because he worked at IDG for 16 years.
It’s standard practice when someone passes away to describe that person as an unforgettable character, but trust me on this: Pat was unforgettable…his overarching goal really was the noble pursuit of helping the world be smarter about technology. Working for him as an editor felt like a calling as much as a job.
[He was] an old-school gentleman. For years, he trekked to IDG offices to personally give holiday cards (and bonus checks) to hundreds of employees at their desks, complimenting each person on a recent achievement, usually drawn from a crib sheet he had memorized. When you’d been with IDG for 10 years, he took you out for dinner at the Ritz Carlton, where he greeted you with a corsage and snapped your photo with his own point-and-shoot camera.
I don’t think he did these things because he was naturally outgoing — if anything, he seemed to be on the reserved side — but because he believed that one of his responsibilities as IDG chairman was to make other staff members feel good about their work. Even when I was a low-level editor, I got occasional complimentary notes from him — always written on the same ultra-cheery letterhead, with GOOD NEWS! and a rainbow at the top.
"Every year around Christmas time, he would personally hand out bonuses to everyone at the IDG publications – which even then included publications all over the world – and would remember the name of every employee and their previous conversations. It was pretty amazing."
“There were not a lot of bureaucrats descending from headquarters to check up on you... He was a real evangelist for technology and he understood long before almost anyone else that technology was going to change the world.”
"Pat would always tell employees at these dinners is that they then belonged to his VIP club, his inner circle, and could ask him for anything down the road. ... I did boldly hit Pat up in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox made it to the World Series, remembering that the company had a few sweet seats behind the third base dugout. To my surprise, Pat responded right away to my desperate plea -- all the way from China..."