Top Blacks in the Entertainment Industry: 1995

By Norment, Lynn | Ebony, June 1995 | Go to article overview

Top Blacks in the Entertainment Industry: 1995


Norment, Lynn, Ebony


ENTERTAINMENT iS a glorious business, with an abundance of glamor, celebrities, huge salaries and mega profits. But as in other areas of the competitive business world, only the most talented and politically savvy executives survive and rise to the highest echelons of power.

The Black executives on these pages epitomize what it takes to succeed in the highly volatile world of show business. As a result of their tenacity and perseverance, they now sit in positions of authority as entrepreneurs or as corporate executives who can "green light" projects and make decisions that can make or lose millions of dollars.

Most are chairmen or presidents of their own companies or of major divisions of corporate giants. Some are senior vice presidents with major external and internal responsibilies. Others are performers who are cited here not because of their entertainment careers but because they control companies and make decisions that affect the whole industry. Michael Jackson, for example, is, according to Forbes magazine, "a conglomerate" who has clout not only because he sings and dances but also because he makes major business deals. Another conglomerate is Oprah Winfrey who has been called the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry. Still another corporate force is Bill Cosby, head of SAH Enterprises. Winfrey and Cosby were the top Blacks on the Fyrbes "Top 40" in the Entertainment industry with two-year takes of $105 million and $60 million, respectively. Winfrey ranked second on the list of the Top 40 earners in the entertainment industry, followed by Cosby (No. 5), Michael Jackson (No. 13), Whitney Houston (No. 23), and Eddie Murphy (No. 28). Houston, who has branched out into movies, is the major force in her own management company, Nippy Inc.

Whatever their titles or the names of their companies, the men and women cited here have helped to create the entertainment industry we know.

Dennis E Hightower was named president of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications in March, an appointment that established him as one of a handful of Blacks to head a major entertainment company. In announcing the appointment, Disney Chairman Michael D. Eisner said Hightower's' global experience and understanding of the Disney brand "will be critical to our future sucess."

Michael Jackson heads entertainment conglormerate and is ranked No. 13 on The Forbes list of the Top 40 earners. He has not only produced some of the best-selling albums of all time but he has also made mega-bucks deals for properties like the catalog of the Beatles top hits.

Oprah Winfrey, the world-renowned talk-show host, has established herself as a powerful force in the entertainment industry. She is chair of Harpo Entertainment Group, which has produced prime-time specials and television movies, in addition to The Oprah Winfrey Show. She ranked No. 2 on Forbes magazine list of the Top 40 earners in the entertainment industry. The Winfrey show, which has won 20 Emmy Awards and six NAACP Image Awards, is now seen in 204 U.S. markets and is distributed to 99 percent of the country. The show is owned and produced by Winfrey's Harpo Productions Inc., based in Chicago.

Richard D. Parsons assumed the position of president of Time Warner Inc. in February 1995. He has responsibility for all corporate staff functions, including corporate financial activities, legal affairs, corporate communications and administration. Time Warner is the world's leading media and entertainment company, with interests in magazine and book publishing, recorded music and music publishing, filmed entertainment, theme parks, cable television and cable television programming.

Robert L. Johnson is president of Black Entertainment Television, which he founded in 1980 as a two-hour-a-week service. Now broadcasting 24 hours a day, BET is the nation's first and only Black-owned cable network, and it reaches 40 million households in 2,500 markets.

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