James E. Wilburn
2005 Outstanding Entrepreneur
CEO & Founder, Winnercomm Inc.
Twenty-four years ago, Jim Wilburn saw an opportunity to telecast horse racing year-round. Twelve Emmy Awards later, Winnercomm is the largest independent sports production company in America, supplying more than 1,000 hours of programming annually to ESPN and 11 other national networks. Today, the native Tulsan and 1974 graduate of TU still serves as CEO and president of the Tulsa-based company, which now employs almost 200 full-time professionals and 2,000 subcontractors.
While working as a leading salesman at ABC-TV affiliate KTUL, Wilburn turned his passion for American Quarter Horse racing into a profitable syndicated programming and ad sales venture for the station. Seeing the success of his idea, Wilburn and a local sportscaster, Chris Lincoln, started Winner Communications as a national syndicator of horse racing programming. A deal with ESPN in 1985 to provide Thoroughbred racing programs for the sports network led to a partnership, still existing today, that makes Winnercomm the world’s largest supplier of third-party programming to ESPN.
Wilburn has guided Winnercomm into a leadership position in its industry by diversifying the company’s services with commercial production, professional Internet and marketing services, and network-quality graphic design, and expanding its sales operation which now includes offices in five cities.
Winnercomm continues to grow. In 2004, it acquired Skycam, a leading designer, manufacturer, and operator of mobile aerial camera systems that will be relocated later this year from Philadelphia to a new headquarters building in Broken Arrow; and it took a major position in People vs. the Pros, a property developed by Innovative Media Solutions, Inc. based in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Wilburn serves on the TU Board of Trustees and has supported the TU Athletic Foundation, Tulsa Sports Charities, Retired and Senior Volunteers Program, Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa Historical Society, and the Oklahoma Reading Association. He has also provided support to the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Red Cross, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Tulsa Boys’ Home, and Boy Scouts of America Indian Nations Council.