In Depth: The Engelbrecht Family

Eyewitness News' Brad Byrd spoke with the Engelbrecht family about their family's history with what is now South Central, Inc.

Here's a full transcript of the interview:

BB: Tonight, one family making a difference in our community and reaching well beyond our community to touch the lives of others. A family's DNA passed down through generations as our times continue to change. It's a story of a father, a son, and a grandson. I'm joined tonight by John David Engelbrecht, chair and president of South Central, Inc. and his son J.P. Engelbrecht, CEO of South Central, Inc.

When I think of the Engelbrecht family, I think of family, broadcasting, radio – but there is so much more than that to this story. John, let's just start at the beginning, your father got the bug for communication aborad a World War II cruiser. Tell me about that.

JE: He was the radio officer on the Light Cruiser Birmingham in World War II. Got interested in radio as a result of that and moved back to Evansville post-war. Borrowed money from the family members – grandparents, godparents – and put WIKY-AM on the air.

BB: I think we have a picture of your dad and mother during those turbulent years. And I remember your mom.

JE: She's still alive.

BB: I know and it's amazing the tour she gave this very green reporter of your home. And you hung around people who worked in radio for years and lived upstairs... played basketball believe.

JE: That's right.

BB: With that being said, you and your dad had this kind of convenant as far as what the future would bring to you. But you made a decision that you say was automatic very young in life.

JE: He had some health problems and we had a conversation about whether I wanted to succeed him or not and I told him 'yes.' So that's when I moved to Knoxville at the University of Tennessee to work at our television and FM station there. Once I graduated, he passed away and that's when I moved back here.

BB: And you immediately took over.

JE: Took over. In two days, I was CEO.

BB: And a few years later, there was a seven-year-old kid that had a desk in your office and that was you JP.

JP: That was me. And we still have the desk and my kids play in my old desk.

BB: Why in the world would a seven-year-old kid hang around his dad's office place. What was the big thrill about that for you?

JP: Brad, you've been around the business. You know, it's not typical. It's magic. It's fun. It's interesting and I got to see all these interesting conversations and characters. And it was more fun than sitting at home with the dog.

BB: So you and your father had an interesting conversation around the age of 12.

JE: It was a Saturday morning. He was 13. I was working Saturday. And he was sitting at his desk and he said 'you know what my favorite thing in the world is to do?' 'Watch you work.' And I thought 'kid wants to do the deal' and we never really had a conversation about succession after that. We just went to work.

BB: And JP, you're the CEO of South Central Inc. and this is after the name changed. We'll get back to that in a second, but with that in my mind – what does this company do now?

JP: Sure, South Central Inc. is really our family's holding company of diverse companies. We have a cookie company based in Chicago called Matt's Cookies. Soft batch that you can find in the grocery store. We have South Central AV which is an audiovisual service provider for the commercial sector. If it makes noise or pretty pictures in a commercial environment, we do it across the country in about 15 cities. We have various real estate holdings and we are also in the opiate addiction treatment space with the medically assisted treatment group based out of Kentucky treating the opiate addiction population.

BB: This is all encompassing: cookies, opiate addiction facilities...

JE: Professional employment companies, audiovisual...

BB: And a lot of this stemmed from muzak and anybody who's my age: elevator music. Tell us about that.

JE: We were one of the original Muzak franchisees in the 1950's. We had two channels and now we have 100 channels today.

BB: Mood Media I believe? What exactly is Mood Media?

JP: We're the largest franchisee of Mood Media in the world... Mood Media is a service provider of digital content for screens, music that you hear in bars, hotels – scent – there's a whole suite of service that is content driven in the audiovisual space. So we can provide the content as well as the actual hardwire via speakers, TV's...

BB: The opiate epidemic is huge and it's breaking hearts right here at home. Not only involving adults but of course children. Why the passion on that?

JP: We've known a lot of people who've been affected by this in their lives. The reality is, opiate addiction knows no class, no color – it is pervasive. Everyone knows someone who has been affected. It's happened in our own families. So when we had an opportunity to invest in a company and help more people... They serve more than 4,000 patients a year with opiate addiction.

BB: And John, you told me any community in this region in the midwest...

JE: You could pracitically take a map of the United States...pick any community, open a clinic and it'd be busy.

BB: With all of this going on, how do you do this with the time you have at your disposal?

JE: Scheduling and a good executive assistant.

JP: Well, it doesn't hurt that I'm a pilot.

BB: And you were a pilot at one time.

JE: I gave it up.

JP: The reality is, even if we have great assistance... The reality is we have tons of folks around the country that help us do this. We're just two guys who live in Evansville.

BB: Finally, it was South Central Communications. I remember the young man that gave me the tour of WIKY. Why did you let go of WIKY – of radio?

JE: We looked at the business growing 1% a year and we didn't like the demographic trends and we were running a good operation and we were able to monetize it.

BB: And that kind of broke your heart too JP. I mean you grew up at a radio station.

JE: I grew up climbing towers and being on air but the mistake people make is they say 'you're a radio family.' That's not true. We're a business family. Business is the true magic because employing people changes society. My grandfather always said being in business was an honorable calling. Didn't say what business. Those were just the businesses we happened to be in at the time. So we're still proud and happy to be in business.

BB: Well, thank you very much for joining us and I can still remember that tour and your sweet mom-- imagining that's where it's all being broadcast from – and upstairs that's where you played basketball. Thanks for joining us tonight.


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