The Wright Stuff: From NBC to Autism Speaks

The Wright Stuff: From NBC to Autism Speaks

by Bob Wright

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Named president and CEO of NBC at the age of 43, he faced a two-headed dragon: on one hand, distrust from the network people deeply skeptical of the “suit” from GE, their new corporate parent; and on the other, fiscal oversight demands from a cautious, conservative institution reluctant to invest heavily in a media business they didn’t understand. For the next 20 years, he managed to navigate the fine line between the two and in the process completely reinvent—and save—the network.

His name is Bob Wright. Under his leadership, a traditional network, struggling to survive a changing landscape, was transformed into a $45 billion cable and internet giant. Frequently flying under the GE corporate radar, Wright and his hand-picked team spearheaded what amounts to a revolution in broadcast television:

-Embracing, rather than resisting, cable
-Launching alternative news channels CNBC and MSNBC, along with, NBC’s powerful springboard to the internet
-Creating strategic partnerships with other media companies formerly considered competitors
-A string of acquisitions that solidified NBC’s leadership in multiple US and international markets, culminating in the lucrative merger into NBC Universal

What does someone like that do when he retires? If he’s Bob Wright, he starts all over again. At almost the exact same time as Bob’s NBC reign was winding down, his grandson Christian was diagnosed with autism, a condition then poorly understood. Baffled by a lack of medical knowledge and community support, Bob and his wife Suzanne founded Autism Speaks, which in short order became the leading advocacy and research funding organization for this mysterious condition that so devastates families. They make a powerful team—the compassionate, charismatic, indefatigable Suzanne who won’t take no for an answer, and the analytic, efficient executive who poured all his business acumen into building an organization from scratch.

As the two story lines unfold in The Wright Stuff, readers will gradually see that both endeavors—revitalizing NBC and building Autism Speaks—reflect the same key management tenets that apply to any organization facing disruptive change.

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to advance autism research.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780795346927
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Publication date: 03/29/2016
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Bob Wright served as Vice Chairman of General Electric until 2008 and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal until 2007. From his appointment as president and CEO of NBC in September 1986 he had one of the longest and most successful tenures of the world's leading media and entertainment company chief executives.

Throughout his 40-year career at GE, Bob had a strong involvement in community service and philanthropy for which he received numerous awards and accolades. Today, he is Senior Advisor of Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. Autism Speaks, founded by Bob and his wife, Suzanne, has led the way for more than a decade in global autism research, advocacy, and support services. He serves on the boards of Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian Hospital.

He was formerly on the Board of Trustees of the Rand Corporation and a Director of the EMI Group Global Ltd. board. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and of the Law School of University of Virginia. The Wrights have three children and six grandchildren.

Table of Contents

A Word from Bob 5

Editor's Note 7

Prologue: The First Grandchild 11

Act 1 2004: Annus Notabilis

1 The Biggest Deal of All 23

2 The Fierce Determination of a Grandmother 39

3 "OK-I'll Make It $25 Million." The Bernie Marcus Factor 41

4 Reflections on Success 47

Act 2 1969-2012: Corporate Transformation

5 First Days 55

6 Media Baptism by Fire: Cox Cable 64

7 This Thing Called Cable 75

8 Chuck Dolan, Cablevision, and Me 88

9 The Business of CNBC 103

10 Rebuilding After a Firestorm: The Dateline Fiasco 115

11 Creating the Must-See TV Money Machine 133

12 Travels with Johnny Carson 150

13 The Ted Turner Factor 159

14 Olympic Gold 170

15 NBC + Microsoft - MSNBC 183

16 Dante's Inferno: The Queen Mary 2 Became the Exxon Valdez! 201

17 Rebooting Network-Affiliate Relations 220

18 Leaving NBC and GE 234

19 Comcast Takes Over 248

20 My Roller-Coaster Ride with Jack Welch 261

21 Suzanne Wright: My Life's Partner 272

Act 3 2004-Present: Nonprofit Transformation

22 1 in 166: The Hidden Epidemic 291

23 Building from Scratch, Block by Block 300

24 Building Block #1: Global Expansion 304

25 Building Block #2: Political Muscle 310

26 Building Block #3: Grassroots Strength 320

27 Building Block #4: Business Principles 325

28 Building Block #5: Strategic Alliances 331

29 The Future for Autism Families 339

30 Vaccines and Other Controversies: A House Divided 358

31 MSSNG: From Beijing to Google 377

Epilogue: Christian at Fourteen 402

Appendix A NBCU

Vintage Wright: What Next? 414

Some Deal Hits and Misses 437

Where Are They Now? 444

Appendix B Autism

What We Learned About Autism 450

Autism Speaks 10th Anniversary Highlights 454

Acknowledgements 458

Index 465

What People are Saying About This

creator and producer of Saturday Night Live - Lorne Michaels

“Bob built the NBC I work at today, and there is no one for whom I have more respect or admiration. Without his vision, guidance and support, SNL would not still be on the air.”

Bob Iger

Bob Wright and I both managed broadcast companies during an era of disruptive change, not unlike the one currently reshaping the media landscape. I watched him repeatedly adapt and reinvent a creative business in the face of new challenges to keep NBC competitive more than two decades. His tremendous contributions to the media industry are only surpassed by his passion and great work for Autism Speaks.

Chairman and CEO of Disney - Bob Iger The Walt Disney Company

Bob Wright and I both managed broadcast companies during an era of disruptive change, not unlike the one currently reshaping the media landscape. I watched him repeatedly adapt and reinvent a creative business in the face of new challenges to keep NBC competitive more than two decades. His tremendous contributions to the media industry are only surpassed by his passion and great work for Autism Speaks.

President and CEO, Discovery Communications - David Zaslav

“In Bob Wright, the media industry and Autism Speaks have both a terrific leader and a catalyst for change. To have Bob on your side is to have a transformative force in your corner.”

Former Director of NIMH and Pres CEO of NY Presbyterian Hospital - Herbert Pardes

Bob Wright makes us realize what great leadership can do… transforming NBC into an extraordinarily international enterprise… [and] bringing to the attention of all, the serious problem of worldwide autism and its calamitous impact on the patients and the families who suffer equally with them.

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The Wright Stuff: From NBC to Autism Speaks 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
bekanp More than 1 year ago
What an astonishing and candid view of two worlds that few of us are privy to unless affected by either or both - that of the media and broadcasting arena and the misunderstood world of Autism, a "rare but more common disorder than you think " affecting children. The first few poignant pages open up the reader to the treasured moment of the first expectation of the birth of a grandchild. Grief strikes the Wright Family as Autism appears in their first- born; mystified by bizarre signs and symptoms that are strained by unawareness, loss, lack of treatment and support. In those first few pages one is able to see two champions born and thrive- Suzanne and Bob Wright - defined by a future cause- Autism Speaks ( ). The author , Bob Wright, leads the reader thru diagnosis, mergers, negotiations, conglomerate acquisitions, media broadcasting, non verbal moments with their grandson, business relations, inside views of NBC, MSNBC, GE, Autism Speaks, and Cox Communications. All written with a great degree of honesty, valor, and finesse- a reflection of Bob Wright, a man who walks with dignity and great compassion, often behind the scenes, but with a pure insight in two worlds, from NBC to Autism, misunderstood by the public and the general community. I, wholeheartedly, recommend this book to everyone. A true reflection of one dynamic family, undeterred by a diagnosis or a merger ! Simply fabulous !