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On The Money

Honoring Bill Bresnan

3/22/2011 3:29 PM

Finding a way to honor a person like Bill Bresnan is not an easy thing to do. But I think The Cable Center got this one right.

To anyone who knew him - and that list is a long, long, long one - Bresnan was a wildly successful businessman, mentor, sage, friend and a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of Irish humor. So coming up with another run-of-the-mill [Insert Name Here] Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence Award simply wouldn’t do.

Next Tuesday (March 29), the Cable Center closes nominations for its inaugural “Bresnan Ethics in Business Award.” The honoree will be named at the Cable Hall of Fame Celebration dinner at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, in conjunction with the NCTA Cable Show on June 14, and will be an executive that exemplifies the ethical standards and integrity of the former Bresnan Communications chairman and founder. Bresnan died in 2009 after a long battle with cancer.

“Obviously we at The Cable Center and the industry appreciate the things that Bill Bresnan did for the cable industry and also the way that he did them,” said Cable Center CEO Larry Satkowiak “The family wanted to do something that would be in lasting memory of not only Bill but the way that he did business.”

The award is open to any cable executive that has been in the industry at least 15 years and has shown ethical leadership, done the right thing in the face of adversity - even if at the time it was an unpopular decision - and incorporated those ethics in their daily lives.

A 12-member committee appointed by The Cable Center will evaluate each nomination and make its decision based on those criteria. Nomination forms and complete details are available on The Cable Center’s website - www.cablecenter.org. An exhibit honoring the award recipients will be on permanent display at The Cable Center.

Bresnan Award selection committee chairman and retired A&E Television Networks CEO Nick Davatzes first met Bill Bresnan in 1980 when both worked at Warner-Amex Communications. He said that he jumped at the chance to head the award committee, adding that the award is a way for the industry “to honor him in the way he lived his life.”

Nominees have to show a track record of ethical behavior - no weekend philanthropists or one-time donors allowed. Davatzes pointed out that Bresnan wasn’t just a champion of one cause — he championed social causes like affirmative action - he was an early backer of the Emma Bowen Foundation - and educational initiatives - he was an early supporter of C-SPAN - just to name a few. On a smaller scale, his treatment of friends and employees fostered a loyalty that is practically unparalleled.

“In a real sense he reflects the value system of what in the recent past was called ‘The Greatest Generation,’” Davatzes said. “He was the first to help a community that was in trouble from a natural disaster and was a spokesman for civility when things got a little crazy in the industry.”

Satkowiak said that Bresnan’s guiding mantra was “do the right thing,” something that he stressed when talking to Satkowiak about his vision for The Cable Center. Bresnan had insisted that the information and resources at the Center be open to everyone and anyone who wants it. When Satkowiak mentioned that might be a tall order to fill, Bresnan had an answer.

“He said ‘Larry, just do the right thing and do the best you can,’” Satkowiak said. “‘This is a very good industry with very good people, and you’ll be successful at the Cable Center.’ …The guy was spot on.”

Davatzes added that Bresnan also had a knack for telling a joke - he had a vast repository - and for turning an old Irish phrase.

“He introduced me to a saying that I use to this day,” Davatzes said. “Every day is a good day when you’re on the right side of the grass. I just wish Bill was on the right side of the grass today.”

September