A crowd of TV industry bigwigs turned out Wednesday evening to fete Abbe Raven, chairman of A+E Networks, and Tom Rutledge, president and COO of Charter Communications, who were honored at the Museum of the Moving Image’s annual black-tie benefit at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.
Nancy Dubuc, who is succeeding Raven as CEO of A+E Networks, introduced her. Dubuc told the room that she read many leadership books when she found out she was getting the top job, but ultimately decided to rely on the lessons she’d learned from her mentor Raven over the past 13 years.
“I have been taking a master class from the expert,” Dubuc said. “All my prior research was pretty pointless – I had to look no further than Abbe’s own leadership style to follow in those incredible footsteps.”
“This leader has shattered every glass ceiling and not just for women,” she added. “Abbe never wanted to be known as great female CEO, she wanted to be known as a great CEO.”
In accepting her award, Raven, a former schoolteacher from Queens, told of how she got her first job in TV by answering a New York Times ad in 1982 to attend a marketing event for a new cable service called Daytime being held in the lingerie department at Macy’s. Though becoming chairman of a major media company wasn’t the goal, “My goal was to do something that I really loved and I instantly became passionate about television,” she said, citing the ability to tell stories that touch people’s lives around the world and impact popular culture.
Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks, introduced Rutledge, his boss for six years when AMC was part of Rainbow Media and Rutledge was head of its parent company, Cablevision. Sapan praised Rutledge for greenlighting both Mad Men and Breaking Bad when AMC decided to enter into original drama.
“If you’ve been in cable operations and run superior cable companies and built extraordinary staffs, it’s a little unlikely that you would say yes to $100 million bets like Mad Men and Breaking Bad when there was no precedent for it but he did and I think that is really characteristic of how Tom operates,” he said.
Rutledge reflected on how his beginnings in the cable industry building fiber optic systems to increase channel capacity ended up led to the creation of broadband, and said he’s still excited about how what Charter is doing now is going to change the way we communicate.
“The way come out is really much different than we thought, but it is the vision that we had,” he said. “It’s such a wonderful thing to be part of a business that has created so much value and so much capacity.”
Comedian Susie Essman provided entertainment for the dinner, whose attendees included former NBC president and CEO Herb Schlosser (chairman of the board of trustees of the museum), Discovery’s Henry Schleiff, A+E Networks’ Mel Berning, Disney-ABC’s Anne Sweeney, ABC News president Ben Sherwood, Hearst Corp. CEO Frank A. Bennack, Jr. and Charter COO John Bickham.