STRAUSS ZELNICK

Founder and partner, ZelnickMedia

Bloomberg

EDUCATION

Columbia High School, class of 1975

Wesleyan University, class of 1979

“In college I thought I was going to be a singer-songwriter. But when I played, the applause was light. It’s hard to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m passionate about this, but I’m not very talented.’ I was able to do that.”

Harvard Business and Law School, J.D./MBA, class of 1983

WORK EXPERIENCE

1980

Summer intern, Viacom

“Viacom was just getting into TV production. By mid-summer, I was the production executive in charge of a game show called The New To Tell the Truth. It was terrible.”

1983-86

Vice president of International Television Division, Columbia Pictures

1986

Senior VP of corporate development, Vestron

1987-88

President and chief operating officer, Vestron

Green-lighted Dirty Dancing

“I knew I wanted to run a movie studio from the age of 5 years old. It’s bizarre, but even then, I felt it could combine my interest in all things creative with my business acumen. Some kids dream of being a baseball player. I dreamed of being a movie executive.”

1989-93

President and COO, 20th Century Fox

Released Home Alone, True Lies, War of the Roses, and Sleeping With the Enemy

Joe Roth [here with Julia Roberts in 1991] had become chairman of the studio, and Joe and Barry Diller were looking for someone to run the business side. All the unfun stuff. The chairman is the person who says yes; the president is the person who says no. I got to say no, like, 10,000 times a year.”

1993

President and chief executive officer, Crystal Dynamics

“It was a big deal when I left for Silicon Valley. Before that, I had always been handed an enterprise and a business card. This was a blank slate; we had zero revenue.”

Launched video games Total Eclipse and Gex

1994-2000

President, BMG Entertainment

Artists included ’N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and Pink

“The first time I heard a track from Christina [Aguilera], I knew she was going to be a massive artist.”

2001

Founder and partner, ZelnickMedia

“It’s tempting to tell romantic stories about the early stages of ZelnickMedia, eating rice and beans for dinner, but the truth is that it wasn’t romantic, it was full of fear. It was very difficult to get off the ground, and we’re still a work in progress.”

Took over Take-Two Interactive in 2007; Grand Theft Auto V will come out on Sept. 17

LIFE LESSONS

1. Prayer is not a business plan. 2. Listen. It’s something that leaders are often terrible at. 3. Never compromise your integrity. It’s the only thing you have.

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