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Walter Ulloa, Latino media pioneer, remembered as a 'role model'

The founder of Entravision, who died at age 74, was lauded by Hispanic leaders for being a "trailblazer" and for his “burning desire to improve the community."
Walter Ulloa
Walter Ulloa.Entravision

Members of the media, business and political community were mourning the death this week of Spanish-language media pioneer Walter Ulloa, the CEO and founder of Entravision Communication Corp.

Ulloa died of a heart attack on New Year’s Eve at age 74, according to a statement Entravision issued Tuesday.

"It's a big loss," according to Tom Castro, the founder and CEO of El Dorado Capital, who said he had a 35-year friendship with Ulloa. "He was truly a role model and he did not seek attention for all he accomplished."

Entravision said in a statement that Ulloa (pronounced oo-YO-ah), transformed the company from "a traditional multi-linear Spanish language company that currently owns and operates 100 domestic television and radio stations to a global digital media powerhouse with a footprint that reaches across 40 countries."

“He built his company from scratch. He didn’t inherit anything,” Castro said.

The company said Ulloa co-founded Entravision in 1996, becoming its first chairman and CEO.

Ulloa, who was Mexican American, grew up in Brawley, in California's Imperial Valley when it was a segregated community. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Loyola Law School, he chose to start his career at KMEX in Los Angeles, a Spanish-language station run by Danny Villanueva Jr., the founder of Univision. Ulloa worked as operations manager, production manager, news director, sales manager and chief executive officer at the station before striking out on his own. As the station grew, "he grew with it, with Danny as his mentor," Castro said.

Castro said that even though Ulloa achieved a high level of business success, his "burning desire to improve the community and serve the community never died."

Ulloa had been discussing ways to work with Latino Media Network's owners Stephanie Valencia and Jess Morales Rocketto, Castro said. The Federal Communications Commission had approved LMN's purchase of 18 radio stations owned by Univision on Dec. 15, Castro said.

Valencia and Morales Rocketto called Ulloa "a true trailblazer in Latino media."

"He saw the value and promise of the Latino media industry before many others did. His north star was to serve our community and that he did ... Walter’s commitment to this cause has been and will continue to be an inspiration for us," they said in a statement.

Castro told the story of getting a call once from a friend who ran a Latino nonprofit organization, asking whether he knew Ulloa, who had just donated $100,000 online and she thought it was a mistake.

"I said, 'Well he's very modest. He does things behind the scenes. He's not looking for grandeur. He's got that kind of money and he's very committed to the community,'" Castro said.

One of the people Ulloa backed was Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif. Castro said Ulloa had called him about Ruiz, who was in a 2012 race against then-Rep. Mary Bono Mack, a Republican.

“I am heartbroken by the sudden passing of my friend, Walter Ulloa, a trailblazer who has helped transform Spanish-language media,” Ruiz, the outgoing chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a tweet Tuesday.

Ulloa's upbringing in the Imperial Valley, a heavy Latino and agricultural area where he witnessed the conditions endured by farmworkers, made a heavy impression that stayed with him, according to Castro.

"Most highly successful Latino businesspeople, their commitment to social justice becomes less and less a part of their lives over time and in Walter's case that never happened. That burning desire to improve the community and serve the community, that never died," Castro said.

Ulloa was a patron of the arts and had assembled one of the best Chicano art collections in the world, Castro said. He bought from unknown Chicano artists to support them so they could continue their work, Castro said.

He was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Ulloa also was a member of the Los Angeles Music Center's board of directors.