Pursuing A Strategic Vision

B.E. 100s CEOs are focused on maintainingtheir competitive edge today, while positioningtheir companies for tomorrow's opportunities

the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $93.21 million in gross sales) run by conglomerator Don H. Barden.

Listed on the 1994 BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 as Barden Communications Inc., the company’s focus on cable television earned it the No. 13 slot on the list. In 1994, CEO Barden sold Barden Cablevision to the Comcast Group of Philadelphia after realizing that telephone companies and media monoliths would squeeze smaller operators, like himself, out of the industry. After cashing in his chips in cable, he decided to roll the dice in the gaming industry. In 1995, Barden was awarded the license to operate a riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana, which legalized such activity in 1993. His gamble paid off. In just five months, the Majestic Star Casino grossed $53 million. (Barden’s other divisions include a $29 million vehicle assembly operation and a $8.2 million computer-assisted learning services company.) “Next year, we project that the Majestic Star will gross $150 million,” says garden, who is completing the construction of a $40 million, state-of-the-art gaming vessel to replace the ship he is currently leasing. “We seek to pursue additional casinos in Detroit and the Virgin Islands,” he says. garden’s gaming operations may not yet rival those of Donald Trump’s or ITT’s but, if Lady Luck is willing, his conglomerate will continue its ascent on the BE 100s.

Other companies may not have entered such a high-stakes industry, but they have decided to take a chance on building new franchises. Reston, Virginia-based Thompson Hospitality, L.P. (No. 57 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $36.5 million in gross sales) has literally done just that. Last year, the Big Boy and Shoney’s restaurants franchisee converted several of its existing outlets into specialized, homegrown diners–America’s Best Diner, TJ’s Roadhouse Grill and Saloon and Sharky’s Seafood & Crabhouse. “I see it as community-based marketing. We have developed these new restaurants, from the menus to jukebox selections, based on the demographics of specific neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” says CEO Warren M. Thompson, whose competitors include steakhouses like Ponderosa and Bennigan’s. “We’re small enough to be close to these communities but large enough to provide professional, efficient service,” he adds. Thompson is taking steps to realize his long-term strategy, growing his regional franchised restaurant operation into a national diner. To achieve this goal, he anticipates raising roughly $4.5 million through private financing.

New York City-based Granite Broadcasting Co. (No. 7 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $154.85 million in gross sales) has tuned into its customer base by extending its reach through the Internet. Last year, the media holding company, which manages 11 television stations, went into partnership with Yahoo! Inc., a popular online Internet guide. Together, they launched an integrated Internet and broadcast service in all of Granite’s markets. By surfing the World Wide Web, Granite’s viewers can gain detailed information on local and national news. At the same time, Granite continues to strengthen brand recognition of his fledgling network.

To expand its portfolio of services and clients,

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