Michael B. McGrath, a trailblazing advertising executive at The Washington Times and doting family man to his wife and two daughters, died Monday after a long fight with lung cancer. He was 41.
Mr. McGrath was well-known in the newspaper industry for his motivation and the relationships he built with clients and co-workers. He most recently was vice president and associate publisher of Politico, but Mr. McGrath cut his teeth in advertising during his 13 years with The Times.
“This man was a true friend and a consummate professional in a challenging business,” said Thomas P. McDevitt, president of The Washington Times. “Mike McGrath and I both joined The Washington Times in 1994. He learned the advertising trade at The Times and soon started delivering major results in the advocacy arena, leveraging the oversized influence of our company with national decision-makers.
“Mike’s secret was clearly evident in his drive to overcome challenges with a true concern for clients, combined with a radiant personality. The thing I remember most, however, was how his eyes and heart lit up whenever he was asked about his lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. Mike McGrath leaves a legacy of courage, results and humanity in an industry that often questions its own future.”
Robert Allbritton, publisher and owner of Politico, said the publication’s success is Mr. McGrath’s “professional legacy.”
Mr. McGrath leaves behind his wife, Patricia “Tricia” McGrath, and their two daughters, Reagan and Corinne.
“There were two sides to Mike, the work side and family side,” said Chris Ricca, national account executive with The Times. “He was a Teddy bear, but a tough guy and competitive when he was working. He’d be calling home, talking to his kids before they went to bed.”
He graduated in 1993 from what was then Towson State University and soon afterward began working at The Times.
“He was a very straightforward person with a tremendous, robust personality,” said Mike Mahr, former advertising director for The Times. “He was somebody you couldn’t help but love.”
A new revenue source, advocacy advertising, was also hard to ignore.
“It was one of the areas undiscovered by The Washington Times,” Mr. Mahr said. “Mike was a pioneer in blazing that trail. It takes someone with a keen interest in politics. If you don’t understand politics, if you don’t understand where the legislation has opportunity for that advertising, you’d miss the entire point.”
Mr. McGrath’s efforts throughout his career garnered him awards, and he spent several years volunteering with the Virginia Press Association.
“He never came to a committee meeting or conference without sparking conversation that usually led to a great outcome for the advertising community in Virginia,” said press association Executive Director Ginger Stanley. “He wasn’t just the idea guy, he would follow through on whatever the project was, or a new concept.”