2011 The Lifeguard at CBS
When Dick Parsons walks into a room, people feel the urge to stand up. And he walks into lots of rooms. Many of them have big conference tables you measure in acres. And usually, he sits at the head.
The most recent of these rooms was at CBS where he was picked as chairman to haul the embattled broadcaster out of the drink and squeeze the water out of its lungs. If there was anyone who could resuscitate, this was the guy.
But Richard Parsons has a strange form of blood cancer and at 70 his doctors told him to climb down from the lifeguard stand and he did.
He cuts a wide path, walking into the room. But unlike many of today’s show-boatier CEOs, he doesn’t make his resume into a thing.
After honing his law and financial chops (Working for Nelson and then other Rockefellers is a good knife sharpener) he was named to a big job at the Dime Savings Bank, which he helped weather a horrible time for banks and bankers.
Later, he led AOL Time Warner. No small feat saving that monstrosity from the ocean waters into which the company went over its head. And later, he was a high ranking official of Citibank.
Oh… and there was the part where he righted another drowning swimmer, the NBA Los Angeles Clippers.
Some resume, right? For sure. All at the same time he was busy supporting jazz music and musicians and a hundred other causes.
He helped reshuffle the board at CBS and was named top-guy replacing the brilliant but flawed Les Moonves. Then, his illness loomed and that’s where he is today.
You don’t find guys like this -- trustworthy and able -- in a lot of big companies these days. And not many Republicans, for that matter. We are suffering from a famine of straight shooters and an overload of seedy, greedy game players. Dick Parsons was one of our leading lifeguards.
And we wish him a long, easy and lucrative retirement.
--Then, there’s Sandra Day O’Connor, who’s been pretty active since retiring as the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court and who is “withdrawing from public life” because doctors say she has some form of dementia. She was nominated to the bench by Reagan. As Chief Justice Roberts said she may be pulling away from public commitments but she remains an inspiration to the rest of us.
--Where are the tapes, Erdogan? The Turkish president was to disclose “the naked” truth about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. What he disclosed was nothing new and not even a strong criticism of the Saudi heir to the throne.
--The Gibson guitar company is scheduled to emerge from bankruptcy on November first and its new majority owner is a private equity firm. Let’s hope they don’t do what those outfits usually do, fire a lot of people and sell off unprofitable divisions, often EVERY division. Let’s also hope they make good on their wish to untangle the pile of spaghetti the previous owner made of a company that’s important to American Music.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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