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Business

Investor’s Business Daily Founder Invests in SMU

William J. O'Neil sees a bright future for Dallas and America.
By Glenn Hunter |
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illustration by Michael Ramirez, Investor's Business Daily

California-based William J. O’Neil, who started the Investor’s Business Daily newspaper, funded a chair in business journalism at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts in 2007 and, a year later, established the William J. O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at SMU’s Cox School of Business. O’Neil lived in Dallas growing up and graduated from SMU in 1955.

1. Why have you endowed these programs at SMU?

Because we’ve had Investor’s Business Daily for 27 years. We have an enormous database, and we’ve learned a lot about the economy. There’s constant change—newcomers coming in with something new, cheaper, faster, displacing older-line companies—and that’s the heart of what the country’s all about. There’s freedom and opportunity to do whatever you want here; it’s up to you. But not everyone understands that.

2. Why have you focused at least partly on business journalism?

My feeling about the journalist field is that journalism students don’t really know much about business. So I think every journalism [student] should have a couple of years of economics background. They need to be able to judge and evaluate: Is this thing we’re hearing about sound, or not?

3. It has been reported that you bought a building in Plano. What will you do with it?

The building is in escrow, and we should have possession by December or January. I think it’s on 11.5 acres. We’re going to move some people here. We have two different operations: O’Neil Data Systems [an automated printing business], which has a lot of big contracts with HMOs to provide all their data. And then we’ll have some of the newspaper people, though we’ll still maintain similar operations in Los Angeles. We’re still analyzing what functions we’ll want to have here, and we’ll hire some people here. In the long run, the paper may have its headquarters here. It just depends.

4. Depends on what?

Well, on how things go. We think being in the central part of the country—in a dynamic area that’s growing and that’s more willing to be pro-business—would preserve the future of the paper.

5. There seems to be a lot of talk these days about American decline. Do you agree with the naysayers, or are you optimistic about the future?

Back in the 1970s, everybody was saying that we had seen our best growth. But the American system is such that anybody can come here and do anything they want to do. So the ‘brain drain’ is moving toward us all the time. Our system adjusts and corrects the problems. So I think the long-term future is very positive.