No Kaitz Honoree Picked Yet

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The Walter Kaitz Foundation has a host and co-chairman for its 22nd-annual fund-raising dinner Sept. 14 in New York.

The only thing missing so far is an honoree.

With less than six weeks before the semi-formal affair, industry observers last week were wondering if Kaitz would forgo the tradition of honoring a cable executive or organization, which serves as a major sales driver for Kaitz' dinner tables.

Kaitz sent out dinner invitations last week with no reference to an honoree, instead referring to the dinner co-chairs — Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and Disney Media Networks co-chairman George Bodenheimer — and MSNBC anchor Lester Holt, who'll emcee the event.

A spokesman for the National Cable Television Association, which oversees the Kaitz Foundation, would only say that the organization “will have an announcement soon” regarding a potential honoree or honorees.

In the past, Kaitz has honored top MSO and industry executives for contributions to the industry's diversity-related efforts. Last year's dinner diverted from past practice in honoring former California Cable Television Association president and Kaitz Foundation founder Spencer Kaitz, as well as the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, Women in Cable & Telecommunications and The Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media.

At last year's dinner, 1,400 attendees helped raise $1.4 million.

If Kaitz forgoes an honoree, it would be the latest in a number of transformations the organization has undergone since the NCTA took it over last summer.

Under current executive director Debbie Smith, who replaced a resigning Art Torres 15 months ago, the organization has streamlined the grant process by giving monies mostly generated from the dinner to NAMIC, WICT and Emma Bowen to support minority recruitment, mentoring and skills-building efforts.

Some had complained in the past grants were being spread too broadly among various companies or farmed out to ones with little or no cable interests.

In 2004, NAMIC received $1.08 million to support the L. Patrick Mellon mentoring program; an alumni workshop; executive-coaching and executive-leadership seminars; middle-manager leadership training and transition-to-professional-staff training;

The Bowen Foundation received $138,800 to help fund its 2004 Student Conference and Link Mentoring Initiative. And WICT received $103,795 to help fund Class XI of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, the WICT Forum and executive-development seminars.

Kaitz also stepped up efforts toward attracting more minority vendors to cable. Along with its annual National Show supplier diversity sessions, Kaitz conducted a workshop at the June SCTE show and is expected to host another supplier diversity event in September during diversity week festivities in New York City, educating on steps that can be taken to recruit qualified businesses affiliated with the Women/Minority Business Enterprise program.