Posted on: Thursday, January 6, 2022
Rubel graduated from Ohio University in 1979
ATHENS, OH – Even though renowned retail and brand CEO Matt Rubel didn’t take the path of a career in journalism, he says his time at WOUB and Ohio University shaped how he approached business leadership.
“The fundamental truths taught to me at WOUB and Ohio University remain true today – truth in journalism, truth in business and truth in life.”
Rubel grew up Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was very interested in journalism when he was in high school.
“When I was looking at schools to attend, I wanted to find a place where I could be very involved in radio and television journalism,” said Rubel. “Ohio University offered great ways for students to be engaged and involved. I looked at pictures of the campus, and it looked beautiful.”
Rubel knew about WOUB before he started in Athens but didn’t know the depth of the activities available to students at the public radio and television station.
“I found the studio at WOUB to be truly impressive,” said Rubel. “And the fact that we could work there as students was really exciting.”
As a freshman, Rubel started volunteering in the WOUB newsroom rewriting Associated Press copy and learning how to articulate a story. He eventually became the host of a two-hour morning radio program.
“The show was a little news and information and a little music,” said Rubel. “I would go to the newsroom the night before each program and download the Harry Reasoner report or find other things to use from different audio feeds to produce the show.”
Rubel also eventually anchored and reported both news and sports for WOUB’s nightly television news program, NewsWatch. He learned how to work under deadline and the importance of providing quality journalism to a community.
“The professional staff members at WOUB took their job and journalism very seriously,” said Rubel. “The reality of delivering news that was relevant to the community was very important.”
WOUB also gave Rubel the chance to explore his other interests through the journalism lens.
“My family owned a few retail stores, so I had a fascination with business as well. I started a half-hour local business show on WOUB TV. The first show was on cow leasing,” Rubel said with a chuckle. “I remember I had to learn a lot about that and other business topics that were important to the people of the region.”
Rubel believes the magic of his college experience was in the fact that he had excellent professors in the classroom and the ability to apply what he learned practically at WOUB. He says both the professors and WOUB professional staff took the telling of the truth to be “very, very important.”
“The professors taught us the seriousness of our job as journalists and the historical aspects of the medium as well as what it could be in the future,” said Rubel. “So being able to take what I was taught academically and pragmatically bring it to life at WOUB, the combination of those two things was really quite impressive.”
After graduating from Ohio University in 1979, Rubel earned an MBA at the University of Miami in Florida and went on to pursue a career in business. He started out in merchandising and buying for Bonwit Teller in New York City and worked his way into executive leadership roles at many well-known retail companies – including Tommy Hilfiger, Revlon and the Cole Haan division of Nike. He was also chairman, CEO and president of Collective Brands. Rubel was honored with an Ohio University Medal of Merit alumni award in 2009 for his achievement in the retailing industry.
“My understanding of communication and critical thinking and the inquisitive nature of the journalism training had a strong impact on how I approached business. I learned to always go to the source, and in business, that is the consumer,” said Rubel. “The training I had as a journalist and the ability to bring it to life via a medium that could reach many also enabled me to communicate well with large numbers of people. At Collective Brands, we had 30,000 employees.”
Through his executive leadership work, Rubel met many people in the financial sector and learned more about how to not only build a profitable business but also have equity in that business. That is when he made the move into the financial sector. Today he is the chairman of the executive board at MidOcean Partners, a New York-based alternative asset manager specializing in middle-market private equity and alternative credit investments.
“As I look back on my career, I am thankful for the fantastic experiences I had at Ohio University and WOUB. I got to spend time with real people who had open doors and were happy to share the facilities, which were first class,” said Rubel. “It was an empowering and enabling time where the only thing that held you back was your own desire to learn and engage. Amazing opportunities were open to anyone who would lean in.”