Clyde Lear is a team player. In fact, he’s built a company based on teamwork that represents 120 of the top collegiate sports franchises across the country.
As Clyde strides down the halls of his business, past rows of gleaming college football helmets perched atop sophisticated broadcasting bays, he proudly points to a sign that expresses the mission of Learfield: “Build the Team, Grow the Company, and Have Fun!”
But the business wasn’t always this large, or this glamorous. Clyde reflects, “It was a small company back in 1972 when we had our first broadcast. We started out as an agricultural news service with farm programs to radio stations all over central Missouri. Then we added news networks and satellite technology. Eventually, we worked out a deal to broadcast the University of Missouri’s Tiger football games. And that’s how we backed into the sports business.”
As the sports division took off over the next few decades, Learfield continued to expand. But Clyde discovered that business success was not enough. “Looking back, I know that I had faith and I went to church. But it wasn’t until I was in my early 40s that I began to have a richer understanding of the role that Jesus played in my life when he died on the cross.” Along with a deeper commitment to faith,
Clyde made a covenant with his leadership team that changed the course of his life.
“It was 1994, and I was a new believer,” says Clyde. “I thought it was important for me to step out and take a new challenge. So, I went on a men’s retreat with our leadership team. The facilitators there challenged us to start an accountability group. We did, and we have met every month since 1996. We invest in each other. And we have been able to use our company for the Lord. Overall, I would say the most important thing for me, besides marrying my wife and meeting Jesus, has been accountability with these four other men from Learfield.”
A Tax-Smart Team
Eventually, it was these four close friends who presented Clyde with the opportunity for a buy-out. “In 2006, I had the opportunity to sell 40 percent of the business,” says Clyde. One of his friends recommended the National Christian Foundation.
So, Clyde teamed up with NCF to give part of his business. Clyde explains, “I gave them a lot of stock in Learfield. Then, when the sale happened, they were the recipient of all that cash, and that went in our Cornerstone Fund, so we could give that money away later.” Clyde’s wife, Sue, adds, “I think the Cornerstone Fund is wonderful because it gives us an opportunity to have that money available when something comes up. We don’t feel like we’re pulling it out of the checkbook. It’s a good vehicle to be able to give to causes or whatever we feel the need to give to, and know that money is available.”
Giving on Principle
With additional money set aside, Clyde and Sue decided to establish some specific parameters for giving. “We said first of all, whatever we give to is going to serve the purposes of Jesus. And the second thing is we are only going to give to needs that would go unmet if we didn’t step up to the plate.”
One project that fit squarely into their guidelines was something they had dreamed about for many years – building a Young Life Camp in Missouri. Clyde and Sue knew the need for a camp in the Midwest firsthand because they had driven kids to camp as far away as Denver and Texas for years. Clyde says, “We had already sold the business and we had the cash. So, we went ahead and made the lead gift that allowed the national board of Young Life to move forward.”
Going All Out for Giving
In the summer of 2016, the Young Life camp at Clearwater Cove, near Branson, Missouri, opened for its first group of teen campers. Clyde and Sue were there for the big event. “We were standing there, and the buses were coming up the hill, and I was cheering. We watched the first kid get off the bus and our regional Young Life director came over and started hugging me. And I just lost it. It was such an emotional thing because we had worked so hard to see this moment come to pass,” Sue says. Clyde describes the experience this way: “As an entrepreneur, having a great sale or doing a great deal brought wonderful satisfaction. There is a high about it that you just absolutely love. And when we got to see that first bus pulling into the Young Life camp, it was that same high. Is there such thing as a giving high? I think maybe we’ve found it!”