Bennett: Staying in tune with Malone
By BroadCasting & Cable Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/26/2000 7:00:00 PM
Robert Bennett, or Dob as he is widely known, has been president and CEO of Liberty Media for three and a half years now, but he has been on John Malone's team considerably longer.
In 1987, after a stint at the Bank of New York, Bennett joined Tele-Communications Inc. and the Malone team as a vice president and director of finance. He moved to Liberty in 1990 after it was spun off from TCI.
Colleagues characterize Bennett, 42, as a low-key leader who has the respect and loyalty of employees. At the same time, he possesses a quick, dry wit he unsheathes sparingly: Asked to describe the best part of his job, he says, "Stock goes up"; worst part: "Stock goes down."
In financial circles, he's widely respected as a guy who takes pains to keep Liberty's stock on the upswing. "Dob's strategy is and has been not trying to run companies, but to make investments in good companies," says Mark Greenberg, manager of Invesco's Leisure Fund. He's on boards of a lot of companies and seems to do a good job keeping track of what's going on at all operations. What's important is applying what you learn at one to the others. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In this business, the proof is does the stock do well over a longer time period."
Bennett, reared in Indianapolis, earned a B.A. in economics from Denison University, graduating with honors. His MBA is from Columbia University.
He draws a distinct line between his private life and his life as a top executive at one of the highest-profile media companies. Bennett favors summer for the long days and the opportunity to head into the mountains, where he and his wife ride horses and hike. The couple also enjoys sailing (a pursuit shared with Liberty Chairman John Malone). Skiing's a favored winter pastime, though Bennett says he's "no big skier."
Guitar ranks high as a hobby. Not only does Bennett play-classical, blues and flamenco are part of his repertoire-but, several years back, he also crafted his own guitar. His listening playlist includes the same music categories, plus "stuff with lots of solo guitar," including Santana.
Building things from the ground up, whether a guitar or assets in Liberty, is a hallmark of Bennett. So is an overriding passion for his work. "I don't have an active fantasy for what I would be doing if I had Bill Gates' bank account," he said upon taking on Liberty's top job. "I think most of us aren't driven purely by compensation. It's fun, it's exciting, there's a lot going on."
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