RV Publisher, Club Pioneer Dies

June 18, 2007
Filed under Trailer News

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Art Rouse, founder of Southern California-based TL Enterprises Inc., an influential force
in the growth of the recreational vehicle industry, died June 15 in St. John’s Hospital in
Santa Monica, California. An 89-year-old Malibu resident whose company published RV
magazines and campground directories and operated a large membership club for RV owners,
Rouse died as the result of an accidental fall a few days earlier, which resulted in a head
injury. As an advertising executive in 1958, Rouse saw increasing public interest in travel
trailers, motorhomes and other types of camping vehicles (RVs) as new vacation-travel
options. He bought a magazine, Trailer Life, that had been operated by an industry
association, established an office in Toluca Lake, near Hollywood, California, and quickly
developed a keen sense of what RV owners and prospective buyers would find interesting
about this emerging travel-related lifestyle. He brought sons Denis and Richard into the
family business and, together with a small staff, increased circulation from about 11,000
at the time of the purchase to more than 300,000 in less than 10 years, dramatically
building advertising revenue and expanding to other RV-related products in the process.
Trailer Life magazine today is published by Ventura, California-based Affinity Group Inc.
(AGI), the parent company of RV Business and more than 40 other recreation-linked
titles. As public awareness and industry momentum increased, Rouse founded
MotorHome magazine in 1968, recognizing a trend toward motorized RVs. During the
same year, he acquired the fledgling Good Sam Club, an RV owners organization that has
since grown to more than a million families. Other outgrowth divisions published campground
directories and offered RV insurance and road service. Rider, a motorcycle
magazine, was founded as a diversification move. “I bought the magazine (Trailer
Life
) as a business because I thought the (recreational vehicle) industry would do
well,” he recalled in a 1991 interview in the Los Angeles Business Journal. “For
two years, it cost me almost every cent I had. Little by little, we passed our competitors,
and I gradually bought them out one by one. The circulation grew and grew.” Having become
an RV enthusiast himself in the process, Rouse penned a monthly column in Trailer
Life
and was widely recognized as “Mr. RV” during his tenure at the helm of the
company he founded. He wrote an autobiography, My Life on Wheels, in 1984, and was
inducted into the RV Hall of Fame in 1986. An estimated 8 million RVs are currently in use.
Rouse’s company was acquired in 1988 by AGI, led today by Mike Schneider, an employee of
Rouse’s from his earliest publishing days. “Art Rouse set the bar for all of us who serve
the RV consumer,” said Schneider, president and CEO. “His passion and commitment to the
RVer, combined with his innovation and savvy business sense, played a large part in shaping
today’s RV community.” Rouse’s passion for RV travel never waned, keeping the wheels of his
motorhome rolling right up to the time of his passing. “Art Rouse leaves behind a legacy as
‘Mr. RV’ to the millions of consumers he loved and served through his own passion for
RVing,” said Schneider. Survivors include his wife Toni, sons Denis and Richard, daughter
Lori, 12 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

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