McGovern, Patrick Joseph, Jr.

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McGovern, Patrick Joseph, Jr.

International Data Group


Patrick J. McGovern Jr. is the founder and chairman of International Data Group (IDG), an information empire that is a leading technology, media, research, and event company worldwide. IDG published the popular For Dummies series, the helpful books with bright yellow covers that began with computer topics for the technologically challenged and branched out to include topics from antiquing to dating. Though later sold, the For Dummies line helped IDG make its mark in publishing. The company publishes some 300 magazines and newspapers with more than 100 million readers in 85 countries. Its titles include PC World, Macworld, Computerworld, InfoWorld, Network World, and CIO. In 2001 IDG had over $3 billion in sales and ranked among the top privately held companies in the United States.

Personal Life

Patrick McGovern is married to Lore Harp McGovern, an entrepreneur who co–founded Vector Graphics, one of the earliest personal computer companies, and who is now involved in numerous Silicon Valley start–ups. Described by many as driven, McGovern first saw Ms. Harp on the cover of Inc. after she founded Vector, arranged to meet her, and the rest is history. He is divorced from his first wife, Susan Odell, an early Computerworld employee.

Affiliated with many organizations, McGovern is a trustee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Whitehead Institute, and has served as director of the Information Industry Association, the Magazine Publishers Association, and the American Management Association. Among his numerous awards are the James Smithsonian Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institute, the Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst & Young, Business Publisher of the Year from The Delaney Report, Communicator of the Year from the New York Chapter of the Business and Professional Advertisers Association, and the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award from the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge, Inc.

Born in 1937, he was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In high school McGovern became so interested in computers that he built one, a device that could beat any human challenger at tic–tac–toe. His invention earned him both a hometown reputation and a scholarship to MIT. His studies there reflected his interest in the brain and its impact on human behavior. He majored in life sciences with a special interest in neurophysiology and the organization and function of the human nervous system. He also took computer science courses to contribute to developing computational models for the function of neural networks. After graduating with a degree in biophysics in 1959, McGovern launched his career in publishing as associate publisher of the country's first computer magazine, Computers and Automation.

Career Details

In 1964 Patrick McGovern attended a press conference for RCA Corp., which was launching a new type of random–access memory. He later met with the head of Univac who complained about the lack of good information on the fledgling computer market. These events prompted McGovern to establish a firm that offered an initial research project that other companies could purchase. McGovern recalled in Forbes, "That weekend I wrote up a proposal and sent it out to about 20 companies, not really expecting to hear anything else about it. To my amazement, within ten days I had 12 people send a check for $10,000, half–payment in advance. That was the only capital we actually ever put into the company, those initial customer deposits." International Data Corp. (IDC) was thus born that year.

IDC was initially a market research firm, collecting and selling information with the goal of providing the industry with timely and reliable statistics on information technology. It remained a market research organization for its first three years until McGovern noticed a large untapped market for computer periodicals. He wanted to call his first magazine Computer World News, a title derived from the existing Medical World News. At the last minute, however, he discovered that the name would not fit across the top of the cover. The shorter titled Computerworld began publication in 1967.

Five years later McGovern expanded his Computerworld concept by launching the magazine Shukan Computer in Japan. With a motto of "think globally and act locally," he strove to ensure that the Japanese magazine would not simply be an alternate language copy of its U.S. counterpart. To this aim, he hired a Japanese staff to edit and manage the publication with the goal of satisfying readers through a superior product tailored to the local market.

In 1980 McGovern continued to expand into new markets, establishing the first joint venture between a U.S. company and the People's Republic of China. As IDC grew, it was transformed into the research subsidiary of the newly formed International Data Group (IDG), which in 2001 had more than 20 million publications in China.

The larger–than–life IDG chairman is known for his long–standing commitment to a decentralized management style and a risk–taking mentality. Once, during a business meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, McGovern dressed up as Nanook of the North and rode into the meeting room on a dog sled as a way of encouraging his executives to relax and enjoy their work. According to The Wall Street Journal, one employee said of McGovern's cheerleading tactics that "the guy's spirit really is pervasive in this place."

Chronology: Patrick Joseph McGovern, Jr.

1937: Born.

1959: Graduated from MIT with a degree in biophysics.

1964: Founded International Data Corp.

1967: Began publishing Computerworld.

1972: Launched Japanese computer magazine ShukanComputer.

1972: Started employee stock plan.

1980: Established the first joint venture between a U.S. company and the People's Republic of China.

2000: Donated $350 million to MIT for the creation of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

2001: Sold Hungry Minds, publisher of the ForDummies book series.

His unwillingness to rule with a heavy hand allows his employees to stretch their capabilities and absorb some of his day–to–day responsibilities, freeing McGovern to steer the company in new directions. "The big advantage of that," he told Forbes, "is that you don't have a lot of internal staff meetings and go to a lot of internal political discussions. You can spend all your time going out and visiting customers; they'll tell you what they need."

This decentralized management style was in part responsible for one of the company's most successful ventures. When McGovern's staff presented him with the initial For Dummies concept, the DOS for Dummies title, he was far from enthusiastic about the idea, but nonetheless trusted the opinion of his editors and approved the project. The book was so successful that the company first began publishing other technology–related titles, then expanded into non–technology subjects like contracts, cats, and house–buying. One title that McGovern himself consulted was Weddings for Dummies. "My daughter was married recently," he told Success, "and I needed a little refresher." In 2001 the company sold its 75 percent stake in Hungry Minds, formerly IDG Books Worldwide, publisher of the For Dummies series.

IDG also has a research arm, and its event activities subsidiary produces more than 168 information technology conferences and events, including the international series of ComNet, Linuxworld Conference & Expo, and Macworld Conference & Expo.

Due to his laid–back management style and the drive to enter new markets, McGovern propelled his company to vast proportions, with a staff of more than 12,000 and a stable of some 300 publications, including PC World and The Industry Standard. Not content with merely 100 million readers, McGovern told Success in 2000 that he hoped to increase that number fivefold by the year 2005. When reminded that this figures amounts to half a billion, he replied, "Yes. But the world has six billion people now, and there is a real need for useful information."

Social and Economic Impact

Armed only with the knowledge that there was a serious need in the marketplace for technology and computer information, Patrick McGovern started a small company with very little money in 1964. This small market research firm grew into the International Data Group, which produces hundreds of computer publications reaching an international market. This business, along with its market research services and trade show production subsidiaries, generate over $3 billion in annual revenue. Not only did he achieve his goal of providing the information technology sector with reliable information, his For Dummies series and consumer computer publications also dispelled some of the fears that many people had of the burgeoning personal computer world.

In early 2000 Patrick and Lore McGovern pledged $350 million over the next twenty years to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the formation of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. At that time, this donation was the largest gift ever to a university and made the McGoverns among the most generous philanthropists in the country. The couple had decided to donate such a large portion of their fortune to brain research because their interest in brain science led to their belief that neuroscience is on the threshold of making major strides in the area of the relationship between behavior and the human mind. As quoted in MIT News, Charles M. Vest, president of MIT, remarked, "Creation of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research will launch one of the most profound and important scientific ventures of the next century and what surely will be a cornerstone of MIT's scientific contributions in the decades ahead."

Part of a new breed of entrepreneurs who profited from the technology boom of the late 1990s, McGovern is committed to donating a major portion of his wealth for the greater benefit of society in general. Long of the mindset that technology has the potential to improve the quality of life worldwide, McGovern has set out to make that theory reality.

Sources of Information

Contact at: International Data Group
1 Exeter Plaza, 15th Fl.
Boston, MA 02116
Business Phone: (617)534–1200


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McGovern, Patrick Joseph, Jr.

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