Don Madden, longtime NHBR publisher, dies at 84

Don Madden, who for over 30 years was owner, publisher and editor of New Hampshire Business Review, died Sept. 29 at his home in New London. He was 84.

Mr. Madden was an entrepreneur with a long and varied career in New Hampshire journalism and politics, and he had a sizable impact on both.

He began his career in journalism working for various radio stations in New England, including WBZ in Boston. In the 1960s, after returning to New Hampshire, he launched, with the help of businesswoman May Gruber, the Manchester Free Press – a weekly newspaper aimed at competing with the Union Leader, which at the time was the single most dominant media outlet in the state.

The Free Press eventually folded, and Mr. Madden then ventured into the advertising business, opening up Madden Advertising in Manchester, which did work for a string of Democratic political campaigns, including President Lyndon B. Johnson’s write-in campaign in the 1968 New Hampshire presidential primary.

He also worked on the successful U.S. Senate campaigns of Tom McIntyre and John Durkin, and later went to work for a time on Durkin’s staff.

Other successful campaigns he helped mastermind included the 1964 election of Democrat J. Oliva "Ollie" Huot, a mayor of Laconia, in the 1st Congressional District. Huot unseated the incumbent Republican, Louis Wyman, and served a single term after losing a rematch with Wyman in 1966.

But the biggest achievement on the political side of Mr. Madden’s career may have been the election in 1978 of Hugh Gallen, a Littleton car dealer, who defeated the three-term incumbent governor, Mel Thomson. Gallen had made opposition to charging Public Service of New Hampshire ratepayers for construction work in progress at the Seabrook nuclear power plant the centerpiece of his campaign – a tactic that Mr. Madden helped formulate and put into action.

Gallen rode the anti-CWIP campaign to victory and was re-elected in 1980.

For a time, he was a real estate developer in the Lakes Region, but in the early 1980s, Mr. Madden acquired New Hampshire Business Review. Over the course of his ownership, he turned the largely unknown monthly tabloid newspaper into a statewide voice for and about the state’s business community.

NHBR became the state’s leading source of business news and information and helped bring business journalism to the forefront in the Granite State. He employed a long line of journalists, who were given the ability to cover issues in-depth and at length – something that is an increasing rarity in the world of print journalism.

Over the course of his ownership of NHBR, Mr. Madden launched other publications, including a Seacoast edition of NHBR and Manchester magazine, a regional lifestyle magazine that was one of the publications that eventually became New Hampshire Magazine. He also founded and published Waste Dynamics of the Northeast, a regional trade publication.

After the Gallen campaign, his career in politics essentially came to an end. Although he was continually contacted by various candidates and potential candidates to help them out, he would decline.

After he sold NHBR to McLean Communications in 2001, he retired to Portsmouth, where he began work on a memoir that later evolved into a novel, although it remained unfinished. The unpublished book focused mostly on his encounters in the political world. While he gave it several working titles over the years, one of them probably best reflects his attitude toward politicians and politics in general. It was, “The Closer You Get, The Smaller They Are.”

Mr. Madden leaves his wife of 51 years, Mary Lee (Raymond) Madden; three children, Lisa Madden of Wilmot, Tomasen Madden Carey of Exeter and James Ian Madden of Chicago, Ill.; two sons-in-law, Peter Schiess of Wilmot and Jeffrey Carey of Exeter; and five grandchildren, Hallie Schiess of Hoboken, N.J., Maddie and Charlie Schiess of Wilmot, and Emma and Zach Carey of Exeter.

A memorial services is planned for Nov. 30 in Wilmot.

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