Zack Richner’s grandparents founded Richner Communications, one of the largest owners of newspapers in the New York area. Richner founded Arrandale Ventures to create new sources of revenue through advertising swaps with startups in exchange for equity.
How did your family create success?
My family owns a group of newspapers in New York, mostly Long Island. My grandparents were accountants. My grandma, back in the 1950s, was working in the professional world, and one of their clients owned a small newspaper that he put up for sale. My grandparents bought it thinking it would be a hobby, and within a year, they were working on it full time. They ran the newspaper until 1987 and grew it to a handful of newspapers on Long Island that my father and my uncle took over and expanded to about 24 local newspapers, all print and digital.
What’s your background?
When I graduated from college, I worked in government for about seven years. I thought it was very important that my first job not be in the family business, so I understood what it meant to have a boss who wasn't a family member and so there wasn’t any whiff of potential nepotism if I became involved in the family business. Working in government gave me a lot of responsibility at a very young age. I was managing multibillion-dollar projects and dozens of people. Not only did it teach me a lot about managing others, but when I provide input to the family business, I have the experience and credentials to back it up.
How did you come up with the idea for Arrandale Ventures?
I set out to find a new business model for local media because advertising revenue from local retailers has declined. We have a trusted and well-known brand. We have steep, long-standing relationships with both consumers and businesses. We have unique marketing channels, and we have engaging content. I was hearing from people in the startup world time and time again that they were frustrated that marketing channels were limited to big tech platforms. I suggested advertising in traditional media, which they had never thought about. It can be difficult to place advertising at scale in traditional media.
I set out to connect nondigital media with startups. It works like a barter — a startup gets X amount of free advertising in exchange for equity. For example, we may offer $10,000 worth of advertising across our network for $3,000 in equity. We started with our family-owned newspapers and now have thousands of multimedia outlets — print, radio, television, digital.
How do you and your family work to preserve your legacy?
It’s very important to us to make an impact in our communities. We think that having a robust, healthy local news business is the first step. We seek other community-oriented businesses where we can leverage our audience and marketing — like local lacrosse camps, as an example.
On the philanthropic side, we take a very hands-on approach. Most of the things we’re passionate about, we want to help with strategizing, operating and offering connections and positive influence, rather than financial-based giving.
My parents sit on various boards. My mom worked at MoMA for 20 years. She speaks all over the country on how to incorporate arts into a STEM curriculum and also works with formerly incarcerated individuals. I sit on the Merging Leadership Council at the 92nd Street Y in New York, which promotes Jewish values — but not only to the Jewish community. In New York, a lot of people utilize the resources of the Y, whether it's classes, preschool or headline events. I also sit on the board of America's Newspapers.
Advice for next-gen family office members based on your experiences?
It's important to prove yourself outside of the family business — in business or nonprofit work. The goal is to demonstrate that you can make wise decisions and be responsible stewards of capital and of time, because time is probably the most finite resource.
Impact investing is something many of us are interested in, but you need to make a business case so that it makes financial sense. I would not discount the quantitative piece of supporting your passion with numbers and data.
Every family has different dynamics. But having experience, whether conceiving and executing initiatives or managing teams, outside of providing financial support, is critical.