Scott Hamilton Finds Success in Discomfort

iHeartMedia’s Scott Hamilton knows that to grow professionally and personally, you need to get out of your comfort zone

Growing up in a rural town in eastern Washington State, Scott Hamilton knew he would do something in the business world in a bigger city. Those aspirations lead him across the globe, developing accounting acumen and challenging his comfort zone, before landing a role that perfectly blended his expertise: chief accounting officer at iHeartMedia Inc.

Scott Hamilton iHeartMedia
Scott Hamilton, iHeartMedia

Hamilton left his home state to study accounting and business at Abilene Christian University in Texas. Upon graduating in 1992, he took a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers, first as an auditor, then providing consultation on complex accounting and reporting issues, and reviewing registration statements and periodic filings of non-US public companies.

“I got married in August 1992 and started at Pricewaterhouse in September, so I started my grown-up life immediately,” Hamilton says with a laugh. “I kind of skipped my twenties and went right to my thirties.”

In his first two years, Hamilton learned about different aspects of the accounting business and worked with myriad companies in different industries. For example, he did a project where he traveled to fifteen different sawmills in the US and Canada looking at their processes. “I learned to appreciate different things and not just do the same-old, same-old,” Hamilton shares.

It also gave him his first opportunity to work overseas, taking a position in the global capital markets group in London to consult with non-US multinational companies regarding SEC filings and US GAAP conversion in connection with debt and equity capital raising.

“This was the late nineties, and there was a big internet boom,” Hamilton says. “A lot of companies were looking to register with the SEC and raise capital on the US markets, so they had to convert to US accounting principles from whatever they were using.”

“I learned to appreciate different things and not just do the same-old, same-old.”

Hamilton and his family stayed in London for four years, with Hamilton also leading training sessions around Europe and South Africa.

“That experience was the biggest thing that had me grow as a professional and also as a person,” he shares. “Coming from a small-town mentality, personally, and culturally, everything was new.”

Plus, he was working with multibillion-dollar companies and leading senior leadership of big European conglomerates through a complicated accounting and reporting process. “I was visiting all different European cities and it was great,” he says. “We chose not to live in a part of London where a lot the Americans lived, so our friends were from everywhere. Being able to experience that is something you can’t replicate in the US.”

His time in London ended in 2003 when the company asked Hamilton to move to the national office in New Jersey, keeping his same role. A year later, a new opportunity came up at Ayaya Inc.

“After twelve years, it was a big step because it was all I knew,” he explains. “I moved into financial planning and analysis, something I had never done, and I learned a ton by doing that.” Hamilton spent five years at Ayaya, leading all accounting and control functions for the $5 billion technology and communications company.

“[Living in London] was the biggest thing that had me grow as a professional and also as a person. Coming from a small-town mentality, personally, and culturally, everything was new.”

And then iHeartMedia came calling.

“They were looking for someone with good accounting skills, international experience, and operational experience. The whole job description seemed like this guy had my résumé and wrote the job description based on it,” Hamilton says.

Today, he is the chief accounting officer for iHeartMedia, the largest audio company in America by reach. With more than a quarter of a billion monthly listeners in the US to its broadcast assets alone, iHeartMedia has the largest reach of any media company in America.

In his time there, he’s helped the company refinance its debt and helped it through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, including a new capital structure that reduced its debt from $15 billion to under $6 billion.

Hamilton feels very lucky and blessed that his work has taken him all over the world and allowed him to have volumes of unique and inspiring experiences. He advises others to follow a similar path.

“Lateral moves can help you get out of your comfort zone. You have to go sideways sometimes. Anytime someone gives you an opportunity—whether it’s going international or changing offices—take it,” he says. “It’s a risk and that can be scary for people, but I recommend doing it, especially when you’re young. You will grow as a person.”

iHeartMedia partner Kirkland & Ellis is an international law firm with more than 2,700 attorneys representing clients in private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, restructuring, and intellectual property matters. Kirkland congratulates Scott for his accomplishments and wishes him continued success in his role.