Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy Transcript: Terry Semel (2000)

Author: Semel, Terry

Publication Year: 2000

Media Type: Report


In 2000, Terry Semel served as lecturer for the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.

Terry Semel began his career as a trainee with Warner Bros. and rose to become Chairman and Co-Chief Executive for two of the most well-known entertainment powerhouses in the country-Warner Bros. and Warner Music Group. Teaming with his longtime business partner Robert Daly, Mr. Semel led Warner Bros.' transfor­mation from a relatively small movie studio into a $6 billion global entertainment business, along side of a $4.5 billion music company. During the Semel/Daly tenure, they were respon­sible for 16 consecutive years of record earnings; for more than 400 major motion pictures that garnered 13 Best Picture Oscar nominations and statutes for "Chariots of Fire," "Driving Miss Daisy," and "Unforgiven." This dynamic management team was also responsible for thousands of television hours of such top-rated, high-quality, and record-breaking series as "China Beach," "Murphy Brown," "Friends," and "ER.'' They also created the hottest network in television, The WB. Mr. Semel marked the entertainment industry with his creativity, innovation and diversification. As an innovative business executive, he helped diversify the studio into a global leader, developing the leading distribution operations in the world for feature films, television, home video as well as the emerging technologies. He can also be credited with pioneering the creation and use of the DVD and marketing films, television series and animation on the Internet. Mr. Semel is currently Chairman of Windsor Media Inc. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the President's Committee for the Arts and Humanities, and on the Board of Directors of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Revlon, Inc. and Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation. Born in New York City, Mr. Semel is a graduate of Long Island University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. He has four children and lives with his wife, Jane, in Bel Air, California.


"For me personally, it's a real honor have been invited to join you in this wonderful setting, and participate in the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.

As I started to think about what I wanted to discuss, I couldn't help but wonder, "why me?" Since starting in the entertainment industry about 30 years ago as a sales trainee at Warner Brothers, actually my first job outside of college, I have certainly been involved with many forms of the arts. I have worked with artists around the world, in movies, television, video and, of course music. Together, we moved from live shows to tape, videos, and now digital versions of works ranging from "Hamlet" to "Woodstock;' from "Driving Miss Daisy" to "Batman," or Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven."

Though I am an avid collector of paintings and sculpture, and on the board of the Guggenheim, I truly do consider myself to be an amateur, particu­larly compared to many of you in attendance tonight. So I asked myself again, "why me?" What would qualify me to speak tonight? Maybe, I thought, it's because as the now past Chairman and co-CEO of Warner Bros., my partner, Bob Daly, and I collectively were running about an $11 billion business for the last 20 years, which meant partici­pating in endless creative meetings, reading thou­sands and thousands of scripts, meeting with new and established artists and, at the same time, dealing with all of the new technologies, laws, taxes, and financial issues surrounding a global operation.

In short, to do what we did called for creative and business worlds to come together. I will admit, occasionally those two worlds did collide. Regardless of whether one is running a house­hold, a school, a studio or a symphony, this combi­nation is a must. This I know, and this I can share with you tonight.

Regardless of whether one is running a house­hold, a school, a studio or a symphony, this combi­nation is a must. This I know, and this I can share with you tonight." [Excerpt for lecture, p.1]

Arts & Intersections:

Categories: Accessibility, Community Development, Cultural Diversity


Series Title: The Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy Transcript




Pages: 8

Resources: Document


Name: Americans for the Arts

Website URL: