December 10, 2009
David Geffen Featured in Dean's Distinguished Speaker Series
Offers views on entertainment industry in rare speaking appearance
Covering a wide-variety of topics from entrepreneurship to philanthropy, as well as the past, present and future of the entertainment and media industries, Hollywood legend David Geffen joined UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian for the first Dean's Distinguished Series event earlier this month. The ongoing Series features Dean Olian and her guests in unscripted and uncensored discussions covering the most pressing and cutting edge management issues of the day.
The free-flowing conversation with Geffen, who rarely participates in public presentations, commenced before a standing-room only Korn Convocation Center audience of Anderson students and faculty. After introducing him as one of the "most successful and powerful" individuals in the entertainment industry, Olian engaged Geffen with a series of questions before yielding the floor to students for a lively question and answer period.
The DreamWorks co-founder spoke nostalgically about his mother's garment business, noting that he learned from her that "you never go out of business when you're making a profit" and he suggested that his legendary work ethic is the result of "growing up poor."
With a smile, he recounted his epiphany to become a talent manager -- "They bullshit on the phone ... I could do that." - and noted that "your ability to recognize talent is all gut. You can learn to be an accountant," he said, "But you can't learn to spot a talented person." Ultimately, though, he lamented some of the changes in the entertainment industry. "When I started out, there were 32 independent record companies. Today there are zero," Geffen said. "The way I started out is virtually impossible today. Today's start-up and operating costs are just too prohibitive."
Geffen also delivered sobering thoughts about the newspaper industry, when asked about his one-time attempt to purchase the New York Times and reported stories that he had a similar interest in the Los Angeles Times (though he noted he never made an offer for the Los Angeles paper). "The loss of newspapers is a tragedy," Geffen said. "I wanted to purchase the New York Times to preserve it."
In his final remarks to Olian, Geffen attempted to summarize his feelings on business. "Relationships," he said, "are important in life and in business. Relationships have been important in every aspect of my life."
About UCLA Anderson School of Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management, established in 1935, is regarded among the leading business schools in the world. UCLA Anderson faculty members are renowned for their teaching excellence and research in advancing management thinking. Each year, UCLA Anderson provides management education to more than 1,800 students enrolled in MBA, Fully-Employed MBA, Executive MBA, UCLA-NUS Global Executive MBA, Master of Financial Engineering, and doctoral programs, and to more than 2,000 professional managers through executive education programs. Combining highly selective admissions, varied and innovative learning programs, and a world-wide network of 36,000 alumni, UCLA Anderson develops and prepares global leaders.
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