Bob Wright


Bob Wright Biography

Bob (Robert Charles) Wright (born 1943) is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Autism Speaks and a former media company executive with a long career at NBC Universal. He served as President and CEO of NBC Universal from September 1986 to 2001, when he was named Chairman and CEO, a position he held until 2007. He concurrently served as Vice Chairman of General Electric from 2001 to 2008. Along with his wife, Suzanne, he founded Autism Speaks in 2005.

Biography

Overview

Bob (Robert Charles) Wright (born April 23, 1943 in Hempstead, Long Island, New York) is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Autism Speaks, an organization he established in 2005 with his wife, Suzanne, after their grandson Christian was diagnosed at age two in March 2004. The Wrights tapped their personal and family experience with autism to heighten understanding and research of the condition. They developed Autism Speaks into the premier global awareness, education, research, and advocacy group, blending what its first president, Mark Roithmayr, called Suzanne's passion for the cause of autism, her family, and her grandchild with Bob's business acumen.

Wright created Autism Speaks by successfully leveraging the skills and contacts he developed working in private law practice, at the Department of Justice, at Cox Communications and in a diversified 40-year management career at General Electric that included 21 years at the helm of NBC Universal. Before joining NBC in 1986, Wright was CEO of GE Financial Services, CEO of Cox Cable Communications, and headed a variety of businesses for GE in its plastics and chemicals, and audio electronics and home appliances divisions.

Suzanne Wright, his wife of 46 years, has been an active and equal partner in all of these business and nonprofit endeavors.

As of 2011, Autism Speaks had raised $350 million for research and awareness resources, supporting a full-time staff of 250 and sponsoring 95 annual regional walks involving more than 40,000 participants. Under the Wrights' leadership, Autism Speaks was a major force in the passage of $1.7 billion (1996-2014) in medical and scientific research funding for autism administered through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This funding included the Combating Autism Act signed by President Bush in 2006 (which was reauthorized in 2011) and President Obama's autism stimulus grant. In addition to federally financed research, Autism Speaks is the principal funding source for its Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, Autism Tissue Program, Light It Up Blue project, Learn the Signs national awareness campaign, autism tool kits, autism insurance reform measures in more than 25 states, and early detection and screening.

Appearing on NBC's Today show and MSNBC on Feb. 25, 2005, Wright explained how he and his wife "watched helplessly" as their grandson, an apparently normal toddler, rapidly deteriorated and lost his ability to interact with the outside world. "Suzanne likens it to a kidnapping, as if someone had taken away the life he was meant to live," Wright said.

"We want our grandson back. So, for as long as it takes, Suzanne and I are going to be devoting whatever extra energy we can muster to helping Autism Speaks achieve its goals. Autism is a vexing puzzle. We are committed to finding the answers," Wright said.

The May 2004 merger of NBC and Vivendi Universal was the highlight of Wright's business career, which included one of the longest, most productive tenures of any media company chief executive. During his two decades at NBC, Wright transformed the broadcast network into a global media giant by expanding it into cable and satellite, international, the Internet and new media markets.

Wright created new value by leveraging NBC's traditional media assets and relying on strategic partnerships. In December 1987, at the end of his first full year as CEO, the NBC network and owned TV stations generated a record $500 million in profit after reducing its employee base to 7,000 from 8,465. At the time Wright retired, NBC Universal had a market capitalization of $45 billion and more than $4 billion in annual earnings. In 2010, GE bought out Vivendi's remaining minority stake in NBCU for $5.8 billion and a year later announced its sale of a controlling 51% of the business to Comcast Corp.

Wright graduated from Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y., in 1961 and from the College of the Holy Cross in 1965. He earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1968.

A senior advisor to Lee Equity Partners since 2007, Wright is authoring a book on leadership lessons for management executives.

Transforming NBC

Wright's most notable accomplishment was making broadcast network NBC into a major player in news, sports, entertainment, cable, theatrical production, the Internet, and theme parks and resorts. The transformation, from the late 1980s through the 1990s, created new revenue streams to offset declining broadcast advertising income.

The popular cable networks (USA and SCI FI Channel) included in the $14 billion acquisition of Vivendi Universal Entertainment especially contributed to a new financial backbone of subscription fees and advertising revenues when NBC's broadcast network viewership, program ratings, and cash flow continued to slide as part of a larger industry decline. NBC Universal's other diversified holdings also included the Universal Pictures movie studio and television production studio, and theme park resorts in Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California. As a result, the newly created NBC Universal reported significantly increased operating profit of $4 billion.

Wright began building NBC Universal's cable holdings in the late 1980s with equity stakes in the A&E Network, the History Channel, ValueVision's Home Shopping Network, and co-ownership in Rainbow Media Holdings. In dissolving the 13-year Rainbow Media Holdings partnership with Cablevision in 2002, Wright negotiated NBC's $1.25 billion acquisition of Bravo, a leading entertainment network, reaching more than 80 million viewers in the U.S. Rainbow Media Holdings, one of the most successful and long-standing cable programming entities, is now publicly traded AMC Networks which includes AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel and WE TV. Wright is a member of the AMC Networks board of directors.

In 2006, NBC Universal launched a mystery and crime channel, Sleuth. A year later it debuted the horror-themed cable channel, Chiller, featuring content from its own and other studios, which initially was exclusive to DirecTV.

The newly merged NBC Universal formed NBC Universal Cable to provide distribution, marketing, and advertising sales for thirteen channels (Bravo, Bravo HD+, Chiller, CNBC, CNBC World, MSNBC, mun2, Syfy, ShopNBC, Telemundo, Sleuth, USA Network and the Olympic Games on cable). NBC Universal Cable also managed the company's investments in A&E, the History Channel, History Channel International, the Biography Channel, National Geographic International, and TiVo. The cable division also operated NBC Weather Plus until 2008, when it was integrated into The Weather Channel, which NBCU purchased from Landmark Communications with the financial support of Bain Capital and Blackstone Group.

Wright leveraged the resources and brand of NBC News to organically develop two cable news networks relying on unique strategic partnerships. When CNBC launched on April 17, 1989, with Cablevision Systems as an initial partner, it was a dramatic undertaking that editorially eclipsed Financial News Network, the only other business cable channel at the time. CNBC acquired and absorbed FNN for $155 million in February 1991, outbidding Dow Jones, Ted Turner and Westinghouse. NBC went on to form an all-business news alliance with Dow Jones in 1997. In 2006, NBC launched CNBC.com as an online destination and extension of the business news channel. Today, NBC Universal is sole owner of CNBC, which during Wright's tenure became the global leader in business news, providing real-time financial-market information to more than 86 million households in the United States and 340 million homes worldwide.

MSNBC, a 24-hour news and information channel with an interactive online companion service, launched in July 1996 in a joint venture with Microsoft. The partnership that paired NBC News-gathering resources with Microsoft funding derailed ABC's plans for an all-news cable channel. Wright initially relied on cable system clearances from the defunct America's Talking. NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw hosted an interview with President Clinton on the cable channel the first night, drawing 7,000 questions submitted on MSNBC.com. Don Imus also simulcast his popular syndicated morning radio show on MSNBC, which was the first major network challenger to CNN, reaching 22 million homes. NBC Universal bought out Microsoft's interest in MSNBC to own the cable network outright just before Wright retired from the company in 2008. NBCU acquired Microsoft's remaining interest in MSNBC.com in 2012, with plans to rebrand it NBCNews.com as part of NBC News Digital. At the time, MSNBC reached 95.7 million U.S. cable households and 50 million monthly unique online users, according to Nielsen.

During his first year as NBC CEO, Wright conducted a cost-efficiency review of NBC News that resulted in major cutbacks, dismissing the long-held notion that network news should be a "loss leader." He soon leveraged and monetized NBC's network news resources in the creation of the cable news networks CNBC and MSNBC. In March 1995, Wright told the New Yorker's Ken Auletta that NBC's ownership and investment in more than 21 domestic cable services "dramatically" raised the asset value of the network "to the tune of probably $2 billion dollars." By 1996, NBC reported $5.2 billion in revenues and $953 million in operating profits. Strategic partnerships Wright diligently worked on but could never snare"?with Turner Broadcasting System and DirecTV"?would have further fortified NBC in other important ways. Turner, Time Warner and TCI exercised their right to block an NBC deal with Turner.

While building NBC's cable portfolio, Wright presided over the biggest ever swing in a broadcast TV network's fortunes. In 1988, NBC achieved record earnings of more than $500 million, resulting from prime time programming success and $150 million in cost cuts in its bloated bureaucratic structure.

At the same time, Wright sought to make NBC a creative home for executives with entrepreneurial zeal. Reversing NBC's declining prime time and news ratings in the mid-1990s was largely attributed to Wright's hiring of three content producers whom he put in control of NBC's core operations beginning in 1993: NBC Entertainment Chairman Don Ohlmeyer, NBC News President Andy Lack, and NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol.

Don Ohlmeyer, an independent sports and entertainment producer, aided by prime time development chief Warren Littlefield, set out to bolster NBC's third-place ratings and an advertising market that was the worst in two decades. Ohlmeyer's turnaround strategy was to build a dominant Thursday night of programming eventually marketed as "Must See TV." The popularity of shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, and the hour-long drama ER breathed new life into the network after the loss of The Cosby Show and Cheers. By 1996, NBC's primetime line-up rebounded to first place in every major category. In 2003, NBC declared its third consecutive primetime ratings win with adults age 18 to 49, and its seventh victorious ratings season in eight years.

Under Ohlmeyer, the broadcaster also became an innovator. It was the first network to "seamlessly" segue from one program to another without a commercial break, and the first to show previews of upcoming programs on a split screen that also featured rolling credits.

At the same time, former CBS News producer Andy Lack helped turn NBC's struggling news division into a premier TV news organization by fortifying the ratings for The Today Show and NBC Nightly News, and utilizing young anchors and reporters hired for MSNBC. Lack added a third (and eventually fourth) hour, instituted a more freewheeling format, and built a street-side studio for The Today Show, helping it to achieve long-standing morning ratings dominance. In prime time, Lack created an hour-long interview show hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw and Today Show anchor Katie Couric to stabilize the news division's nighttime presence. He also improved affiliate station clearances for the Sunday morning staple, Meet the Press anchored by the late Tim Russert.

Lack's biggest challenge was restoring NBC News' reputation following the NBC Dateline debacle that involved rigging a combustible engine in the magazine's expose about exploding trucks. Lack succeeded the well-regarded print newsman and managing editor Michael Gartner, whose otherwise laudable contributions to NBC News as president were tarnished by accepting blame for the incident.

On Dick Ebersol's watch as NBC Sports president, NBC became the first broadcast network to secure the rights to five consecutive Olympics telecasts (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008) and to simultaneously bid for multiple games. In 2003, NBC secured exclusive U.S. media rights to 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games for $2 billion.

In 1994, NBC became the first network with four major strongholds of sports coverage: NFC, NBA, MLB and the 1996 Olympics. When sports rights began spiraling out of control, Wright steered NBC away from a costly NBA rights deal in 2001" just as he had earlier with football and baseball " rather than accept hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. But in 2005, NBC secured a Sunday night prime time NFL game package that included flexible scheduling and the 2009 and 2012 Super Bowl telecasts.

Even as television broadcasters faced formidable competition from cable in the 1990s, Wright continued to fortify NBC's station ownership, television programming and production. He significantly expanded NBC's ownership of broadcast television stations covering more than one-third of U.S. television households. This followed the sale of NBC's profitable radio stations to Infinity, Westwood, Group W and Emmis between 1986 and 1988.

In 2002, NBC completed two significant broadcast television acquisitions in addition to its acquisition of cable channel Bravo. NBC acquired Telemundo, the nation's second-largest Spanish-language media company, with 16 owned-and-operated stations in the continental United States and Puerto Rico. And in a stunning strategic move, NBC acquired KNTV from Granite Broadcasting to serve as the primary owned station in the San Francisco/San Jose market, replacing long-time affiliate KRON-TV. Other major TV acquisitions were the Outlet TV stations in Miami (1987); Providence, Columbus and Raleigh (1995); San Diego and Birmingham (1996); and Hartford (1997). In 1998, NBC formed a joint venture with LIN TV to operate WXAS in Dallas and KNSD San Diego.

NBC also acquired Paxson Communications Corp., which became the ION Media Network headed by former NBC business-development executive Brandon Burgess. NBC Universal also acquired international television channels across Europe and Latin America. By 2006, NBC selectively thinned its TV station ranks, selling four stations (in Raleigh, Columbus, Birmingham and Providence) to Media General for $600 million.

Wright also accelerated NBCU's internal television production. The television divisions of NBC and Universal combined in 2005 to form NBC Universal Television. It was later renamed Universal Media Studios to encompass television, film and all digital platforms. NBCU Studios series produced for the peacock network included the NBC dramas Las Vegas (with DreamWorks SKG), Crossing Jordan, and American Dreams. Universal Network Television bought the Law & Order franchise and The District, which Universal Network Television had co-produced with NBC before the merger. Entertainment shows produced by the combined TV production group included The Jay Leno Show, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Last Call with Carson Daly, and Saturday Night Live.

NBC went on to produce and benefit from the after-market syndication proceeds from a number of hit prime time series including West Wing, Will and Grace, Monk, The Office, Heroes and The Apprentice.

Having endured heavy criticism early in his NBC tenure for his buttoned-up corporate GE and legal background, Wright was lauded inside and outside the company at the 10-year mark as one of the brightest executives in television, according to The New York Time. Wright left an indelible mark on NBC Universal with revolutionary as well as evolutionary changes over two decades.

Wright continued to make his mark even after retiring from NBCU in 2007 and from GE in 2008. The unique financial structure he designed for NBC's Vivendi Universal acquisition provided a template for Comcast taking control of NBCU in 2011 and its gradual five-year buyout of GE's minority stake in the company. Initially, NBC/GE owned 80% of NBC Universal and gradually bought out Vivendi's 20% stake in the merged entity.

Leadership Vision

Wright began his media career in 1980 as President of Cox Cable Communications, where he spent three and a half years building the company's original cable system franchises and programming interests (see more below). He also initiated the development of Indax, an early in-home interactive television service designed to compete with Warner's QUBE.

At age 43, Wright succeeded Grant Tinker as NBC CEO on August 26, 1986, amid Rupert Murdoch's plans to launch a fourth broadcast TV network and investor Larry Tisch's takeover of CBS. Tinker was a revered TV program producer. Wright was considered an industry outsider despite successfully building cable systems and investing in programming at Cox Cable. Wright's forte soon became clear: repositioning NBC's core broadcast business amid dramatic trends and profound industry changes including cable and Internet challenges. In the end, Wright uniquely bridged and integrated the worlds of broadcast, cable, interactive television and the Internet.

Wright led the crusade for high definition TV conversion (HDTV) for station owners and the adoption of financial interest and syndication rules. It allowed NBC and other broadcast networks to reap the monetary benefit of the continuous replay of television programs they paid to produce. Even as he lobbied for Federal Communications Commission support of new financial interest and syndication rules in 1989, while fending off protests by Hollywood's biggest studios, NBC produced two of its five new prime time series in-house.

While many of NBC's more than 200 affiliated TV stations resisted the change Wright saw coming, he firmly moved them into the cable business by tapping their resources to create an affiliate news service tagged NBC News Channel in 1991 and the all-digital 24-hour Weather Plus Network station partnership. However, the Olympics Triplecast in 1992 tested and angered many NBC TV station affiliates with what they considered to be rival, beginning-to-end subscription coverage of the games on three dedicated pay cable channels.

The Olympics Triplecast was a groundbreaking venture with Cablevision Systems that brilliantly showcased NBC Sports on-air talent and production capabilities. The pay TV experiment demonstrated how the company could maximize use of its cable channels with live, premium content. Although NBC racked up between $50 million and $100 million in losses for the unprecedented Triplecast, it was able to build on the experience with its 1996 and subsequent Olympics coverage utilizing its own CNBC and MSNBC for live coverage of competitive events not carried in total or at all on the NBC broadcast network. While the initial Triplecast was not well-received as a multi-channel pay service, it inspired thriving free, advertising-supported multi-channel Olympics coverage by NBCU for decades that became a focal point of its international presence.

Wright additionally expanded NBC's international footprint in 1993 with the $23 million acquisition and re-launch of the Super Channel, then the largest program television service in Europe serving more than 70 million households. In June 1995, CNBC Asia debuted as a 24-hour in-depth business news service and the first to feature programming produced on three continents, rivaling CNN's global reach and reputation. NBC Asia and CNBC Euro debuted in 1996, followed in 1998 when NBC and Dow Jones & Co. combined their financial news resources and coverage outside the US. Their joint efforts supported NBC Europe, CNBC Europe, NBC Asia, CNBC Asia, NBC Africa and CNBC Africa.

In a bid for Spanish-language programming, viewers and advertising dollars on both sides of the border, NBC acquired Telemundo Communications Group for $1.98 billion equity and about $700 million in debt in October 2001. NBC Universal continued its worldly expansion in 2007 purchasing Sparrowhawk Media Group which it renamed NBC Universal Global Networks. This acquisition gave NBC Universal a significant portfolio of more than 30 international pay TV channels that included all Hallmark channels outside the United States and British channels such as Diva TV and Movies 24. The company also acquired the Oxygen network in a separate $925 million deal.

Wright also led his broadcast and cable peers embracing the Internet. It began as early as 1992 with an IBM partnership called NBC Desktop News, providing consumers with full-motion video and audio delivered to their computers. The following year, NBC Digital Publishing launched a CD-ROM digital publishing service. By 1995, he made Desktop Video part of the NBC/Microsoft partnership that included a thriving MSNBC interactive online service. Wright told the New Media Conference that NBC is in the "Video in the Home" business " via broadcast, cable, computers, interactive "leveraging the NBC Network platform to "create value" for all of NBC's holdings. In August 1995, NBC became the first to usher a network into the digital era with the launch of NBC.com, the first full-scale Web offering from an entertainment network.

In 1998, NBC purchased an equity stake in CNET's Snap.com, an Internet portal and search engine. In 1999, NBCi becomes an exclusive general portal, community, e-commerce Internet enterprise. NBC merged several key Internet assets with XOOM.com and Snap.com to form the sixth-largest Internet site. By 2006, NBC acquired iVilliage, a leading women's website, for $600 million and negotiated a 50% joint venture with Ralph Lauren for Polo.com, which remains a highly successful retail online venue.

Under Wright's leadership in 2006, NBC Universal announced "NBCU 2.0," a wide-ranging strategic initiative to assure future growth, streamline and strengthen operations, and exploit opportunities in the evolving global digital marketplace. The initiative reduced expenses by $750 million over two years.

In a 2004 keynote speech to the Media Institute, Wright was the first in the industry to sound the alarm about the need to protect movies, music and other intellectual property against digital theft. Wright took up the mantle of fighting intellectual property theft in November 2005 with the white paper, Engines of Growth, which measured the economic impact of domestic intellectual property theft. Wright also published a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the topic. In November 2006, he delivered a major policy speech at the U.S. Chamber of Congress, articulating a four-pronged approach to battling piracy and counterfeiting. In January 2007, Wright delivered the keynote address at Third Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy in Geneva, Switzerland.

The GE Way

In 2008, Wright retired as vice chairman of GE, head of the executive committee and advisor to GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, who succeeded his long-time friend and mentor, Jack Welch. Welch originally hired Wright and shepherded him through a number of executive roles at the conglomerate.

Wright began his 40-year career with GE as a trainee in the distribution transformer division in January 1969 in Pittsfield, Mass. He soon transitioned from a corporate lawyer into strategic planning as a segue to general management.

He briefly left GE in 1970 to serve as chief legal secretary to Judge Lawrence A. Whipple, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Newark, during the celebrated Sam "The Plumber" DeCavalcante mafia trial. He also worked in private practice as a lawyer at Crummy, Del De, Dolan & Purcell in Bernardsville, New Jersey. He returned to GE in 1973 to head GE Plastics and Chemicals operations until 1979.

An announced merger of GE and Cox broadcast and cable properties brought Wright and his young family to Atlanta in 1980. He stayed on as CEO of Cox Cable Communications even after the merger collapsed, securing some of Cox's largest early cable system franchises and programming interests. Upon his return to GE, Wright was Vice President of GE Housewares and Audio Electronics (which included manufacturing televisions) from 1983 to 1984.

Prior to his association with NBC, Wright was President and CEO of GE Financial Services from 1984 to 1986. Wright assumed command of NBC amid sweeping corporate takeovers of all the major broadcast networks. After GE acquired NBC in a $6.2 million merger with RCA in December 1985 [24], Capital Cities acquired ABC in January 1986 and investor Larry Tisch bought a controlling interest in CBS later that year.

"Everything we wanted to do, every time we wanted to expand, we sort of had to do it in the middle of the night. When times are good, then everybody's king. When times are lousy, there is always pressure on any new development cost. It happens in all corporations. The remarkable thing about NBC is that we lasted 23 years and probably became GE's highest profile company after closing the Universal deal in 2004," Wright says in his forthcoming book.

Although Welch and his successor, Jeff Immelt, maneuvered to sell NBC on several occasions (to the likes of Walt Disney, Marvin Davis, Wayne Huizenga and private equity), Wright's lucrative and savvy empire-building proved more potent.[25] His revival of NBC's prime time ratings and successful creation of CNBC and MSNBC"?even while the news division was under fire for the NBC Dateline exploding truck engine debacle"?were catalytic.[26] "In the worst moment, I knew Bob was better than anybody else we could have put in that business. He was always this good. He went through a cycle while he was building all these other assets," Welch told The New York Times April 14, 1996.

Business career

Cox Cable Communications

As the owner of television stations and newspapers, the Cox family was concerned about eroding its core broadcast businesses income with expensive cable system construction and interactive components. In 1980, Wright was brought in as CEO and president of Cox Cable Communications to preside as executive vice president of the combined Cox-GE broadcast television station group. What would have been the largest media merger at that time eventually collapsed over failure of the parties to agree on valuation.

Wright stayed with Atlanta-based Cox Cable to negotiate and create the company's first cable franchises from scratch in cities such as New Orleans, Tucson, Phoenix, Plano (TX), Portland, Staten Island, Vancouver, Contavedre, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, and Las Vegas. At the beginning of the modern cable era, Wright learned from and found himself bidding against such cable pioneers as Ted Turner (Turner Broadcasting Systems), John Malone (TCI), Chuck Dolan (Cablevision Systems) and Ralph Roberts (Comcast). He eventually became lifelong friends with Dolan, and NBC became a long-time partner in the companies' Rainbow Media Holdings.

Wright also engaged Cox in discussions that would have given the company early equity ownership positions in CNN and in ESPN. He also initiated the development of Indax, an early in-home interactive television service to compete with Warner's QUBE. Wright said the independence and support he received from the Cox family helped to build his media expertise and confidence which he later leveraged at GE Capital and at NBCU.

After 21 years at the helm, in February 2007, Wright was succeeded as NBC Universal Chairman and CEO by Jeff Zucker, who held that post for only three years. Wright remained a vice chairman of GE until May 2008. Comcast Cable president Steve Burke assumed the role of NBCU President and CEO in January 2011.

Wright joined Lee Equity Partners as a senior advisor in 2007, where he assists with the evaluation of media investments and acquisitions.

Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, whose grandson was diagnosed with autism. With a $25 million pledge from Bernie Marcus, the co-founding CEO of Home Depot, the Wrights galvanized disparate efforts to support families and research by merging the Autism Coalition for Research and Education, the National Alliance for Autism Research, and Cure Autism Now.

Autism Speaks is dedicated to finding the missing piece of the Autism puzzle by funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. It is committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals. It maintains scientific, tissue, treatment and diagnostics, and innovative technology advisory boards and steering committees. Autism Speaks Family Services offers resources, tool kits, and support to help families and others manage the day-to-day challenges of living with autism.

Since its inception, Autism Speaks has raised $350 million, the bulk of which has been sent for scientific and medical research, awareness resources, supporting a full-time staff of 250 and sponsoring 95 annual regional walks involving more than 40,000 participants. Under the Wrights' leadership, Autism Speaks was a major force in the passage of $1.7 billion (1996-2014) in medical and scientific research funding for autism administered through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This funding included the Combating Autism Act signed by President Bush in 2006 (which was reauthorized in 2011) and President Obama's autism stimulus grant.

In addition to federally financed research, Autism Speaks is the principle funding source for Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks' Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, Autism Speaks' Autism Tissue Program, the Light It Up Blue project, the Learn the Signs national awareness campaign, Autism tool kits, autism insurance reform measures in more than 25 states, and early detection and screening endorsed by the American Association of Pediatrics.

The Wrights have been instrumental in globally extending the reach of Autism Speaks to include affiliates in the United Kingdom, Canada, Qatar, Albania and Bangladesh.

In a major initiative by co-founder Suzanne Wright, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 62/139, in December 2007, tabled by the State of Qatar, declaring April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) in perpetuity. Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, supported the campaign for a World Autism Awareness Day through the current 62nd UN General Assembly Session, garnering consensus support from all United Nations Member States. This UN resolution the Wrights helped to achieve is one of only three official health-specific United Nations Days aimed at raising world awareness, early diagnosis and early intervention.

Mrs. Wright also was the driving force behind the annual Light It Up Blue campaign to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. More than 3000 structures in over 180 U.S. cities and 30 countries " including such global icons as New York's Empire State Building, Chicago's Willis Tower, Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando, the Niagara Falls, CN Tower in Canada, the Sydney Opera House in Australia " as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, schools/universities, restaurants, and retail stores, light up in bright blue.

For their tireless efforts, Bob and Suzanne Wright were honored with the first-ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. They received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John's University, St. Joseph's University and UMass Medical School, delivering respective commencement addresses at the first two schools. They received the President's Medal for Excellence at Boston College's Wall Street Council Tribute Dinner. The Wrights were named among Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2008. Autism Speaks was named one of "America's Greatest Brands" in both 2009 and 2011.

The Wrights have brought direction and hope to families touched by autism. "They no longer see themselves on a deserted island trying to make fire," observed Autism Speaks' former president Mark Roithmayr. Suzanne Wright has often been quoted as saying, "When autism knocked on our door, it knocked on the wrong door, because we're going to do something about it."

Autism is a general group of complex developmental brain disorders " autism spectrum disorders " caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum " a 1000 percent increase in the past 40 years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

Awards

Bob Wright has been the recipient of numerous honors including the Visionary Award from the Museum of Television & Radio. In 2005, Wright received the Humanitarian Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center for fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach, and social action.

Wright's past honors include the Distinguished Leadership in Business Award from Columbia Business School, the Golden Mike Award from the Broadcasters' Foundation, the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian of the Year award from the UJA-Federation of New York, and the Gold Medal Award from the International Radio & Television Society Foundation. He has been honored by the Center for Communication for his industry leadership and has received the Ad Council's Public Service Award in recognition of his commitment to public service in both the public and private sectors. He has also been inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

Boards and Affiliations

Wright serves on a number of boards. They include AMC Networks Inc. (since 2011), Autism Speaks (since founding the organization in 2005), EMI (since 2011), Mission Product Holdings Inc. (since 2008), Palm Beach Civic Assn. as Chairman and CEO (since 2010), and Polo Ralph Lauren (since 2007).

Wright also is graduate director of the Advertising Council and a trustee of the Museum of Television & Radio. He is a member of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation board(since 2005), the board of governors of New York-Presbyterian and the University Hospitals of Columbia and Cornell, and the board of trustees of Pro Ad Pac. Wright also is honorary chair of Entertainment, Media and Communications Division for the UJA-Federation of New York; on the executive committee of the University of Virginia Law School; on the senior advisory board of the University of Virginia Alumni Association; campaign chairman of the New Century Campaign; and a board member for the Westport Country Playhouse( since 2002).

Wright's previous board affiliations include: Rand Corp. (2007-2011) trustee; Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, advisory council; American Film Institute trustee; American Women in Radio & Television honorary trustee; Cancer Research Fund board member; Center for Communications board member; College of the Holy Cross board of trustees and executive committee; First Amendment Leaders' Council member; and Holy Cross Communications Council chairman.

Wright also has served on the International Council (NATAS) board of directors; as a Motion Picture & Television Fund Foundation trustee; on the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences board; on the National Campaign Against Youth Violence board; as a Nantucket Conservation Foundation Inc. trustee; and on the boards of the National Organization of Disability; New York City Partnership & Chamber of Commerce; Nick and Mark Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis; 1000 Points of Light Foundation; The Partnership for New York City; Twin Towers Fund; United Way of Tri-State and The Center for Corporate Community Relations- Boston College advisory committee.

Wright is a founding member of the Global Leadership Group for BASCAP, the Business Alliance to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy. He has been a leading figure in the global business community in raising awareness about the economic dangers of counterfeiting and piracy. He is on the board of trustees of the American Film Institute and the Museum of Television and Radio, and serves on the board of directors of the Motion Picture and Television Fund Corporation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and the New York Center for Autism. He is an honorary trustee of the Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television. In addition, Wright is on the board of governors of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and is a member of the Society of New York Hospital Inc.

Speeches and Publications

Wright has delivered numerous speeches during the course of his career. Some of the most notable speeches are published by NBC in a collection titled Wright Words: Selected Speeches and Articles. The preface of the book, assembled by William Bartlett, senior executive of communications at NBC Universal, reads: "(His) is an extraordinary success story, unmatched in the media industry both in duration and accomplishment. As an executive, Bob Wright had a rare blend of visionary leadership and hands-on operational skill, enabling him to deftly steer the company through uncharted waters in a turbulent and rapidly changing media world. The collection of Bob's speeches and articles during his tenure at NBC gives the reader a glimpse into an unparalleled businessman, visionary thinker, industry leader, and inspiring mentor." They include:

  • A Straightforward Objective, address at NBC affiliates meeting, Los Angeles, June 1, 1987.
  • Coming Home, address before Cable Television Administration & Marketing Society, San Francisco, August 17, 1987.
  • Putting Money on the Screen, address at the IRTS Newsmaker Lunch, New York, Oct. 27, 1987.
  • Stop Daydreaming, Start Thinking, address at the Hollywood Radio & Television Society Luncheon, Los Angeles, April 12, 1988.
  • A View from the Living Room, address at the Broadcasting/Cable Interface II, Washington, DC, June 1, 1988.
  • 2001: A Communications Vision, address at the San Diego Communications Council Conference, San Diego, Nov. 16, 1989.
  • A Decade Without Boundaries, address before the National Association of Television Program Executives, New Orleans, Jan. 16, 1990.
  • Just Another Number on the Dial, MSTV HDTV Update Conference, Washington, DC, Sept. 6, 1990.
  • Broadcast Television Under Siege, address at the NBC affiliates meeting, New York, Dec. 12, 1991.
  • The Evolution of Television, address before the Washington Metropolitan Cable Club, Washington, DC, Oct. 25, 1995.
  • Video-in-the-Home, address at the "Report to the Industry" Conference, Coalition for Advertising Supported Information and Entertainment, New York, March 10, 1995.
  • Bullish on Broadcasting, address before the National Association of Broadcasters, Las Vegas, April 15, 1996.
  • He Had No Quit, Remarks at the Memorial service for Brandon Tartikoiff, Los Angeles, Aug. 29, 1997.
  • Broadcasting and Cable: In the Same Boat Now, address before the Washington Metropolitan Cable Club, Washington, DC, Feb. 23, 1998.
  • Looking Ahead, article for the 50th Annual Emmy Awards Program Book, Sept. 13, 1998.
  • A Beautiful Adventure, commencement address delivered to the graduates at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, May 8, 1999.
  • Why NBC Left NAM, article in Electronic Media, March 13, 2000.
  • Our Partners in Broadcasting, preface to Brought to You in Living Color: 75 Years of Great Moments in Television and Radio from NBC, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.
  • The Inflexible Obligations of the Legal Profession, commencement address delivered to the University of Virginia School of Law Charlottesville, Virginia, May 19, 2002.
  • A Defining Moment, commencement address delivered to the graduates of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, May 24, 2002.
  • Restoring Trust: The Work of America, address before the Legatus Tri-state Chapter New York, Oct. 29, 2992.
  • After the Scandals, address to the Columbia Business School, New York, Jan. 22, 2003.
  • Freedom: A History of US, welcome remarks at the Stephen Decatur House Museum, New York, Feb. 4, 2003.
  • If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It, address before the North American Broadcasters Association, New York, Feb. 10, 2003.
  • ?Big' Isn't ?Bad,' article in The Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2003.
  • ?Be There and Get the News!' Preface to Operation Iraqui Freedom, Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2003.
  • Five Rules for a Successful Acquisition, address before the Nevada Development Authority, Las Vegas, Oct. 29, 2003.
  • Bust Your Heinie, address at McCann-Erickson WorldGroup Global Conference, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Nov. 14, 2003.
  • A Master of Relationships, remarks at the memorial service for Don Durgin, New York, Jan. 23, 2004.
  • A Great Newsman, remarks at the memorial service for Jerry Nachman, New York, Jan. 29, 2004.
  • The Big Chill, article in The Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2004.
  • Welcome to NBC Universal, Remarks at the first NBC Universal Town Hall Los Angeles, May 13, 2004.
  • Technology and the Rule of Law in the Digital Age, address at the Media Institute Friends and Benefactors Awards Banquet, Washington, DC, Oc. 27, 2004.
  • He May Have Retired, But He Still Entertained, article in Television Week, Jan. 31, 2005.
  • I Want My Grandson Back, article for MSNBC.com, Feb. 25, 2005.
  • We'll Walk, We'll Run and We'll Persuade, remarks at the introduction of the Combating Autism Act of 2005, Washington, DC, April 19, 2005.
  • Stop IP Theft, article in The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2005.
  • Three Strategic Imperatives for Success, address delivered to the graduates of the Columbia School of Business, New York, May 14, 2006.
  • Be A Crusader, commencement address delivered to the graduates of the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, May 26, 2006.
  • A Time for Reckoning, address at the Third Annual Anti-counterfeiting and Piracy Summit, Washington, DC, Sept. 29, 2006.
  • Federal Censorship Commission?, article in The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 3, 2006.
  • ?Hear No Evil' No Longer, address at the Third Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy, Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 30, 2007.
  • The Time Has Come, Memorandum to All Employees, Feb. 6, 2007.

Personal

Wright is the only child and son of Catherine Drum Wright (born 1905), a college educated elementary school teacher, and Gerald Franklin Wright, (born 1905), an athlete who matriculated in electrical engineering at University of Cincinnati and Purdue, and worked as a financial and electrical engineering consultant, and commercial contractor. Bob and Suzanne Wright were married on August 26, 1967, in West Hempstead, New York. They have three children, all of whom reside in New York City: Catherine (Katie), born Dec. 20, 1968; Christopher, born Dec. 25, 1972; and Maggie, born May 19, 1977. The Wrights also have six grandchildren.

The Wrights are formerly residents of Southport (Fairfield) CT; Pittsfield, MA; and Bernardsville, NJ. They now reside in Palm Beach, FL.




This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bob_Wright" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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