Robert Charles Wright (born April 23, 1943) is an American lawyer, businessman, and author. He is a former NBC executive, having served as president and CEO from 1986 to 2001, and chairman and CEO from 2001 until he retired in 2007. He has been credited with overseeing the broadcast network's expansion into a media conglomerate and leading the company to record earnings in the 1990s. Prior to NBC, he held several posts at General Electric in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He served as President and CEO of GE Capital, GE Financial Services 1983 to 1986 and served as GE's vice chairman until he retired from that role in 2008.
Wright in October 2015
Robert Charles Wright
April 23, 1943
|Residence||Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.|
|Alma mater||College of the Holy Cross|
University of Virginia School of Law
|Known for||Cox Cable|
The Suzanne Wright Foundation
|Board member of||Polo Ralph Lauren|
New York-Presbyterian Hospital (life trustee)
Palm Beach Civic Association (Chairman and CEO)
|Spouse(s)||Susan Keenan Wright (m. 2017-Present)|
Suzanne Wright(m. 1967–2016) (her death)
In 2005, Wright and his late wife, Suzanne Wright, founded Autism Speaks. Wright is currently leading a national health policy initiative to establish HARPA, a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency. HARPA is a proposal developed by the Suzanne Wright Foundation, which Bob Wright established after his wife, Suzanne, died from pancreatic cancer in July 2016. HARPA would exist within HHS and leverage federal research assets and private sector tools to drive medical breakthroughs for diseases, like pancreatic cancer, that have not benefited from the current system. The Agency would work within an innovation ecosystem that includes: the commercial market; biotech and healthcare companies; venture capital and philanthropy; academic institutions; and other government and regulatory agencies. HARPA is modeled after the DoD's DARPA, the gold-standard for innovation, accountability and results.
Early life and educationEdit
Wright was born on April 23, 1943, in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island, the only child of Catherine Drum Wright and Gerald Franklin Wright. After graduating from Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, Wright enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He originally studied pre-med, but later changed his studies to major in psychology and minor in history. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965. Wright earned an LL.B from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1968.
Wright began his career with General Electric as a staff lawyer in 1969. The following year, he left GE to take a judicial clerkship for a federal judge in New Jersey. Wright joined GE again in 1973 as a lawyer for the company's plastics unit, where he later took on several management positions. GE made a deal to acquire radio, broadcast TV and cable properties of Atlanta, Georgia-based Cox Communications in 1979 and appointed Wright as Cox Cable president and executive vice president of Cox Broadcasting. The deal did not come to fruition, however Wright remained with Cox Cable as president until 1983. Under Wright's leadership, Cox Cable launched franchises across the U.S., including franchises in Omaha, Nebraska, Tucson, Arizona, New Orleans, Louisiana, Vancouver, Washington, suburbs near Chicago, Illinois, and Providence, Rhode Island, and a portion of Long Island, New York. Wright was a contemporary of Ted Turner (Turner Broadcasting Systems), John Malone (TCI), Chuck Dolan (Cablevision Systems) and Ralph J. Roberts (Comcast) during the early days of cable television. Wright left Cox to join GE once again in 1983, when GE chairman and CEO Jack Welch hired him to lead the company's housewares and audio units. He was promoted to president of GE Financial Services from 1984 to 1986.
NBC and NBC UniversalEdit
GE named Wright the president and CEO of NBC Broadcasting when the company acquired the broadcast network in 1986. He succeeded Grant Tinker in the role. He became chairman and CEO of NBC in 2001. He was named chairman and CEO of NBC Universal in 2004.
Upon succeeding Tinker, Wright's main mission became finding new areas of business in addition to running a television network, and transformed the network into a media conglomerate. NBC launched CNBC in 1989 and MSNBC in 1996. Both are examples of the strategic partnerships NBC created under Wright to improve distribution and content. CNBC included a partnership with Dow Jones allowing delivery of local business and financial news in Europe and Asia; and MSNBC was a venture with Microsoft that launched a new 24-hour news network and accompanying news website to combine the two mediums.
Wright is credited with leading NBC during a time when the company became a powerful media leader, driving the company to record earnings in the 1990s. The network reported $5 billion in revenues and nearly more $1 billion in operating profits in 1996. Also under Wright, NBC acquired Universal Pictures, Telemundo and Bravo.
In the early- and mid-90s, Wright and NBC led efforts to persuade lawmakers and regulators to relax rules preventing networks from becoming multichannel program providers, obtaining certain financial interests and syndication.
General Electric named Wright as vice chairman of NBC's then-parent company in 2000.
Under Wright, NBC completed its acquisition of Vivendi Universal Entertainment in 2004. Led by Wright, the newly formed NBCUniversal controlled seven cable networks, including USA Network and Sci-Fi Channel); 29 TV stations; film and TV studios; and theme parks.
During his career with NBC, Wright was active in opposing digital piracy, and was a founding member of the Global Leadership Group for the Business Alliance to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy. In that role, Wright spoke at the Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy in Geneva, Switzerland, pushing for lawmakers and businesses to curb rising intellectual property theft in the digital age, and delivered a speech titled "Technology and the Rule of Law in the Digital Age" at the Media Institute in 2004. He also penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled "Stop IP theft". Wright's speech at the Media Institute was published in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy. His 2002 speech for the Legatus Tri-State Chapter on issues of faith and business was reprinted in 50 High-Impact Speeches and Remarks.
Wright retired from NBC in 2007. When Wright first took the helm at the network, it saw operating profits of $400 million. In 2007, when he retired, NBC generated $3.1 billion in profit on $15.4 billion in revenue. He remained vice chairman of GE until his retirement from that role in 2008.
One of Wright's grandchildren, Christian, was diagnosed with autism, prompting him and his wife, Suzanne, to found an advocacy group. The couple launched Autism Speaks in 2005, and Wright became its chairman. The Wrights' organization merged with Autism Coalition for Research and Education in 2005, National Alliance for Autism Research in 2006 and Cure Autism Now in 2007. In its first 9 years, Autism Speaks invested a half-billion dollars, focusing on science and research. The organization helped persuade the U.S. government to invest billions in autism research; as of 2014, Congress had dedicated more than $3 billion for autism research and monitoring. During Wright's tenure, the organization teamed up with Google in 2014 on the MSSNG project to sequence a database of autism genomes. Wright resigned as chairman of Autism Speaks in May 2015; as of February 2016, he remained on the board as a co-founder of the organization and on its executive committee. His book, The Wright Stuff: from NBC to Autism Speaks, written with Diane Mermigas, was published March 29, 2016.
The Suzanne Wright FoundationEdit
Bob Wright is Founder and Chairman of the Suzanne Wright Foundation, established in honor of his late wife, Suzanne, who died from pancreatic cancer on July 29, 2016. The Suzanne Wright Foundation launched CodePurple, a national awareness and advocacy campaign to fight pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. With no screening tools, the mortality rate is 92% and has seen virtually no improvement in more than 40 years. Through advocacy and awareness, the foundation's goal is to accelerate discovery of detection tools, better treatments, and ultimately, a cure for pancreatic cancer.
The Suzanne Wright Foundation proposes a national health policy initiative to establish HARPA, the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency. HARPA would exist with HHS and leverage federal research assets and private sector tools to drive medical breakthroughs for diseases, like pancreatic cancer, that have not benefited from the current system. HARPA is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the gold-standard for innovation and accountability. DARPA, an agency within the Department of Defense, developed The Internet, Voice Recognition Technology, GPS navigation, Night vision, Robotic Prostheses, Stealth Technology. DARPA’s success proves there is an effective government model for translating science to product. HARPA’s identical operating principles, built on urgency, leadership, high-impact investments and accountability, would advance scientific research “from bench to bedside.” HARPA would work within an innovation ecosystem that includes: the commercial market; biotech and healthcare companies; venture capital and philanthropy; academic institutions; and other government and regulatory agencies.
On May 22, 2018, The Suzanne Wright Foundation premiered their film The Patients Are Waiting: How HARPA Will Change Lives, in New York City. The film screening was followed by a panel hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Anchor and Global Markets Editor, FOX Business Network – FOX News Channel. Panelists included Bob Wright, Dr. Herbert Pardes, Executive Vice Chairman of NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital; Former Director NIMH, Dr. Geoffrey Ling, Col. (Ret.) Prof. of Neurology, Johns Hopkins; Founder & Former Director, DARPA BTO, Jessica Morris, Co-founder of OurBrainBank, and Karen Reeves, President & CMO, AZTherapies.
Lee Equity PartnersEdit
Lee Equity Partners, a private equity firm run by financier Thomas H. Lee, announced in January 2008 that Wright would join the company as a senior advisor. Due to Wright's background with GE Financial Services and NBC, Wright was brought on to advise in media and financial sector deals.
Boards and affiliationsEdit
Wright has served on numerous boards, councils and committees. As of February 2016, he sits on the board of directors for Polo Ralph Lauren; Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group he co-founded with his late wife, Suzanne; AMC Networks; Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation; and Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians & Jews. He is chairman and CEO of Palm Beach Civic Association. He is a life trustee of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Honors and awardsEdit
Wright has accepted various awards and honors during his career in media. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1996, the Cable Center's Cable Hall of Fame in 2007 and AAF's Advertising Hall of Fame in 2009. He received the "Gold Medal Award" from International Radio & Television Society Foundation in 1997, the "Steven J. Ross Humanitarian of the Year Award" of UJA-Federation of New York in 1998, "Public Service Award" from the Ad Council in 2002, Broadcasters' Foundation's "Golden Mike Award" in 2003, Media Institute's 2004 "Freedom of Speech Award", "Humanitarian Award" from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2005, "Distinguished Leadership in Business Award" from Columbia Business School in 2005, and the "Visionary Award" from the Museum of Television & Radio in 2006. He also was awarded the Minorities in Broadcasting Training Program's "Striving for Excellence Award". Wright and his wife, Suzanne, have been honored for their work with Autism Speaks. They were presented with the first-ever "Double Helix Medal" for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the New York University "Child Advocacy Award", the Castle Connolly "National Health Leadership Award" and the American Ireland Fund "Humanitarian Award". They received the "Dean's Medal" from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the "President's Medal for Excellence" at Boston College's Wall Street Council Tribute Dinner and the "Visionary Award" at the 20th Annual Nantucket Film Festival. The Wrights were named among Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2008.
Wright was married to his wife, Suzanne, from 1967 until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2016. He has three children, Katie, Chris, and Maggie and six grandchildren: Christian, Mattias, Morgan, Maisie, Alex, and Sloan.
| CEO of NBC
- Michael Reardon (2005). "The Profile: Robert C. Wright '65". Holy Cross Magazine. College of the Holy Cross. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "Biography: Bob Wright". PBS. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "Ralph Lauren Corp. (RL)". Reuters. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "AMC Networks Inc. (AMCX)". Reuters. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "Life Trustees at New York-Presbyterian Hospital". New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- "Directors and members". Palm Beach Civic Association. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Lee, Hailey (6 November 2014). "Ex-NBC chief Bob Wright paves way for autism research". CNBC. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- Ensher, Ellen A.; Murphy, Susan E. (2011). Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Proteges Get the Most of Their Relationships. John Wiley & Sons. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-118-04687-6.
- Lowry, Brian (25 April 2013). "Former NBC topper Bob Wright stayed ahead of the curve on biz changes". Variety. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Gunther, Marc (3 February 1997). "How GE made NBC No. 1". Fortune. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Executive Profile: Robert C. Wright". Bloomberg. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- McKenna, Josephine (21 November 2014). "Pope Francis tackles autism as families seek hope and support". Deseret News. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- "Grieving Husband Launches Foundation to Fight Pancreatic Cancer in Honor of His Late Wife". PEOPLE.com. 2016-11-16. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
- "About". HARPA. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
- Wright, Bob; Mermigas, Diane (2016). The Wright Stuff: From NBC to Autism Speaks. RosettaBooks. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7953-4692-7.
- Wright, Bob (2003), "No profession is more honorable than the law" (PDF), UVALawyer, p. 69, retrieved 8 February 2016
- "GE names NBC president vice chairman". Bloomberg News. 29 July 2000. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Taylor III, Alex (16 March 1987). "GE's hard driver at NBC". Fortune. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Egan, Jack (6 October 1978). "GE and Cox Broadcasting plan merger". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- Jones, William H. (27 February 1979). "Mutual agrees to buy N.Y. radio station". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- Fabrikant, Geraldine (13 December 1992). "For NBC, hard times and miscues". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- Sharbutt, Jay (22 August 1986). "Wright seen as next NBC chief". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Cox Cable's Wright: Building the future" (PDF). Broadcasting Now. 1 November 1982. p. 87. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "The Hauser Oral and Video History Project: Bob Wright". CableCenter.org. 15 May 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Siklos, Richard; Holson, Laura M. (8 August 2005). "NBC Universal aims to be prettiest feather in G.E.'s cap". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Boyer, Peter J. (6 June 1988). "NBC Tries a Quieter Way Of Breaking Into Cable TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Ex-NBC head Wright joins Lee Equity". Los Angeles Times. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Ex-NBC chair to join Lee Equity Partners". The New York Times. 31 January 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Mermigas, Diane (4 December 2000). "NBC continues to thrive in GE's world". Electronic Media (Crain Communications). p. 38.
- Sherman, Alex; Bass, Dina (16 July 2012). "MSNBC website renamed NBCNews.com after Microsoft split". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Jones, Tim (9 June 1996). "NBC prepares for '90s, and beyond". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Hofmeister, Sallie (5 November 2002). "NBC to add new content to Bravo". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Wharton, Dennis (29 March 1994). "Wright set to argue for easing regs". Variety. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Flint, Joe (17 January 1994). "Facing the facts of life in a post fin-syn world". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on 3 May 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Carter, Bill (13 May 2004). "Deal compete, NBC is planning to cross-market". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Cendrowicz, Leo (31 January 2007). "NBC's Wright" Put anti-piracy at top of agenda". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Media Institute Speeches". Media Institute. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- Wright, Bob (8 November 2005). "Stop IP theft". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Wright, Bob (2005). "Technology and the Role of Law in the Digital Age". Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy. 19 (2): 705–710. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
- Kador, John (2004). 50 High-Impact Speeches and Remarks. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 121–128. ISBN 0-07-142194-7.
- "Chief executive says GE won't sell NBC Universal". The Associated Press. 12 March 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Notice of 2008 Annual Meeting and Proxy Statements" (PDF). General Electric. 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Bob Wright". cablecenter.org. Cable Center. 2007. Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- "Autism Speaks". philanthropynewsdigest.org. Foundation Center. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- "'MSSNG' project, partnership between Autism Speaks and Google for autism research, has official launch". ABC News. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- Michelle Diament (5 May 2015). "Autism Speaks sees leadership change". Disability Scoop. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Board members". Autism Speaks. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- Foundation, The Suzanne Wright. "Bob Wright Launches The Suzanne Wright Foundation to Fight Pancreatic Cancer". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
- Stanton, John. "Bob Wright takes on pancreatic cancer after losing wife Suzanne". The Inquirer and Mirror. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
- "Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Found Early?". www.cancer.org. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
- "American Cancer Society | Cancer Facts & Statistics". American Cancer Society | Cancer Facts & Statistics. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
- "About". HARPA. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
- Kouwe, Zachery (1 February 2008). "Bob Wright to advise on media for buyout big". New York Post. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Board of directors". Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Who we are". Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians & Jews. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "Benefits". The New York Times. 3 November 1996. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "Broadband briefs". CED. 12 April 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "Advertising Hall of Fame Members". Advertising Hall of Fame. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "Billboard". 29 March 1997. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "UJA-Federation of New York". UJA-Federation of New York. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "Billboard". Billboard. 4 October 1997. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "Adweek Calendar". Adweek. 18 November 2002. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "Mike Bloomberg to receive Golden Mike Award". Broadcasting & Cable. 22 December 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Kaplan, David (28 October 2004). "NBC's Wright cites erosion of intellectual property rights". MediaPost Communications. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "Distinguished Leadership In Business Award". Columbia Business School. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Paul J. Gough (3 February 2006). "NBC Chairman and 'SNL' Honored at Gala". Backstage. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "SFE Awards". MIBTP. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "Cable Hall of Fame 2007 Honorees". Cable Hall of Fame. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "A Strong Voice: An interview with Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders, Autism Speaks". Leaders Magazine. April 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Gouveia, Georgette (31 October 2014). "Autism Speaks and Suzanne and Bob Wright ensure the world listens". WAG Mag. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Gerard, Jeremy (14 May 2015). "Robert Towne will be feted at 20th Nantucket Film Fest". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Brokaw, Tom (12 May 2008). "The 2008 Time 100". Time. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- O'Brien Mackey, Sarah (Spring 2006). "Inspired to make a difference: Bob Wright '65" (PDF). Holy Cross Magazine. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
- Kauffman, Ellie (30 July 2016). "Suzanne Wright, autism advocate, dies at 69". CNN. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- "About the author". RosettaBooks. Retrieved 4 April 2016.