Biography of Lorry I. Lokey, founder of Business Wire

Lorry I. Lokey, 80, is the founder and CEO/chairman emeritus of Business Wire, the international media relations wire service headquartered on three upper floors of 44 Montgomery St. in San Francisco.

He moved permanently to San Francisco in late 1952 and held several positions before establishing Business Wire on Oct. 2, 1961:He is a native of Portland, Ore., and was graduated from Alameda Elementary and Grant High schools. A graduate of Stanford University ('49) with a B.A. degree in journalism and former editor of The Stanford Daily (Vol. 115 in 1949), Lokey acquired his knowledge of wire services as night wire editor for United Press (now UPI) in Portland. Lokey also was a reporter on the Longview (Wash.) Daily News (1950-52), and feature editor of Pacific Stars & Stripes, Tokyo, during World War II service, 1946.

  • Administrator, Western Highway Institute, San Francisco, 1952-53
  • Public relations representative, Shell Development Co., Emeryville, 1953-55
  • Western news bureau supervisor, General Electric Co., San Francisco, 1955-61.

He instructed a public relations course at Golden Gate College for two semesters in the late 1950s and also was the leader of a Junior Achievement team for GE at that time.

During the 1970s and 1980s he served on several boards - The Stanford Daily; Temple Beth El, San Mateo; and the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Belmont.

Currently he is a trustee at Santa Clara University; a trustee for Leo Baeck School, Haifa, Israel; a trustee at Mills College, Oakland; a regent at Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose; a trustee on the University of Oregon Foundation; and on the board of governors of the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Foster City.

He is a past president of the Public Relations Roundtable of San Francisco, the nation's oldest continuous PR organization; the San Francisco Publicity Club; and the San Francisco chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists.

Business Wire opened October 1961 to 16 print and broadcast news media from San Rafael to San Jose. On opening day it had seven customers. Within four months the company became profitable as its news media clients reached 20 and the customer list neared 30 firms and public relations and advertising agencies.

In 2007, Business Wire has more than 25,000 accounts and transmits news releases to more than 30,000 news media, financial analysts and databanks in every state of the union and thousands more in foreign countries around the world.

It has 25 domestic offices plus offices in Brussels and Sydney; full-scale offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo, as well as foreign representative offices in Latin America, India and Toronto. And BW now has 495 employees. From billings of less than $36,000 in BW's first 15 months of operation, the company now bills nearly 10 times that each working day - $134 million in 2006.

In December 2005, Lokey promoted Cathy Baron Tamraz to president/CEO from president/COO, and he retained the title of founder.

On March 1, 2006, Business Wire was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway, managed by Warren Buffett. All other BW personnel kept their same positions.

Lokey still averages some 35 work hours a week - down from 60+ - and continues to work from offices at 44 Montgomery St., San Francisco, where the headquarters occupy the entire 31st, 32nd and 39th floors.

Lokey, divorced in 1990 after 37 years, has three daughters, one of whom (Ann) is working at the SF office as vice president-director of research and development. Lokey plans to take early retirement before age 90. He lives in Atherton, 28 miles south of San Francisco, has a second home on Kapalua on Maui, Hawaii, and travels overseas annually. His companion of 16 years is Joanne E. Harrington of Atherton.

In recent years he has created the Lorry I. Lokey Supporting Foundation at the San Francisco Jewish community Endowment Fund and made or pledged substantial grants, mostly to educational institutions, of more than $300 million:

  • Stanford - several endowed chairs; tuition grants; lead gift for construction of the new chemistry/biology research laboratory; a $50 million donor-advised fund and the lead gift for construction of a new stem cell building; and lead donor for the new Stanford Daily publications building
  • Santa Clara University for new library and $13 million in endowed tuition grants
  • Mills College for a two new child-care center buildings plus the new Master of Business program for chairs, equipment and building, and an addition to the social sciences building
  • University of Oregon for a new music department building, journalism/communications building in Portland, nanosciences building, School of Education building and a $5.2 million endowment to give better support for faculty salaries
  • The Technion, Israel's equivalent of Cal Tech and MIT, for creation of a life sciences division, the addition of 10-20 professors, establishment of an endowment to further chemistry and biology research that involves chemical engineering, nanoscience and stem cell research
  • Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose for endowment and wiring the campus for fiber optics and $15 million for the upcoming reconstruction of several buildings in "Old Town."
  • Alameda Elementary School in Portland (Ore.) for a new library and classroom; new computer room and wiring of all classrooms
  • Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for endowment
  • San Francisco Opera for endowment for the Adler Program
  • Eugene, Ore., symphony for endowment
  • Environmental Defense Fund for internships at Stanford and New York City
  • Leo Baeck School in Haifa, Israel, for the newly constructed Lokey International Academy
  • Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Foster City, Calif., lead donor for buildings; children's playground
  • Eastside School District in San Jose for construction of a technology building
  • Woodside, Calif., Priory for the new library and for $1 million endowment
  • Brandeis-Hillel Day School in San Francisco for $1 million endowment
  • Camp Swig near Saratoga, Calif., for its reconstruction
  • Endowments to the Judas Magnes Museum in Berkeley and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco
  • Family Service of San Mateo County, Calif.
  • Jewish Family Services, SF Bay Area
  • Peninsula Temple Sholom for construction of its new religious school building; endowment for adult education program and endowment for the Helen Raiskin social hall


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2023 ISSUE 2

How the environment and health interact