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BU Alums Named to Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment List”

Three make annual ranking of those leading the information age

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Vanity Fair recently published its annual “New Establishment List,” a ranking of 100 “Silicon Valley hotshots, Hollywood moguls, Wall Street titans, and cultural icons,” and among the names are three BU alums.

Leading the trio is Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav (LAW’85), who came in at 45th. Bonnie Hammer (CGS’69, COM’71, SED’75), chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, ranked 75th, and A+E Networks head Nancy Dubuc (COM’91) took 79th place.

The list was chosen by a panel consisting of Fortune writer Dan Primack, Fusion news director Kevin Roose, and several Vanity Fair editors, writers, and special reporters. The “New Establishment” list began 22 years ago when Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter first took over the magazine and wanted to boost circulation and advertising. According to a BBC story, Carter was having lunch with journalist David Halberstam, who pointed out that there was “a big shift going on in American culture, from an industrial economy to one based on entertainment and technology.” That observation led to the first of the New Establishment annual issues. The focus of the list is those driving the information age.

Zaslav became interested in entertainment law as a BU student (by his own admission, he also spent a lot of time sneaking into Red Sox games). After graduating, he advised the Discovery Channel and MTV, and was hired in 1989 by NBC Universal as a lawyer for its growing cable division, which he helped expand by negotiating deals with Comcast, Time Warner, and DirectTV. He also brought films and TV shows to viewers via new technology like the internet, cell phones, and other wireless devices. And in 1996 he played a key role in creating MSNBC.

In 2007, Zaslav became president and CEO of Discovery Communications, with its array of networks like Animal Planet, OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network, TLC, and the Discovery Channel. Vanity Fair touts him for being behind the launch of Discovery’s virtual reality network, Discovery VR, which attracted 60 million views in its first year. The magazine noted one misstep as evidence Zaslav’s mortality: “Discovery shifted Shark Week to avoid competition with the Olympics, without realizing that Shark Week thrives in the dog days of late summer. Ratings dipped. Zaslav has promised that it will return to its regularly scheduled heat wave next year.”

Former Daily Free Press writer Dubuc joined A+E Television Networks in 1999, became president of the History Channel and Lifetime Network in 2007, then earned the top job—president and CEO—at A+E Networks in 2013. She now oversees cable channels that include A+E, Lifetime, and History, and presides over a $26 billion portfolio that reaches more than 330 million households. Last December, Dubuc was once again on the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the top 100 women in the entertainment business. Vanity Fair cited her role in “spicing up the once sleepy Heart/Disney joint venture with Lifetime’s Bachelor send-up, UnREAL, and the Spike Jonze–led Viceland channel.” It was announced last August that A+E Television Networks would buy a 10 percent stake in the millennial favorite Vice Media for $250 million.

The Hollywood Reporter, which lists Hammer as well as Dubuc on its 2015 top 100 women in the entertainment business list, refers to her as “the queen of cable,” and for good reason. After starting her career at Boston public television station WGBH, Hammer moved to cable networks Lifetime and USA, where she transformed World Wrestling Entertainment into a major franchise, before becoming president of Syfy and USA. Today she is chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group, a 10-network portfolio that includes Bravo, Oxygen, Syfy, and USA, and two cable studios. It “continues to be a major contributor to NBCU’s top and bottom lines, with a 2015 profit of $2.8 billion,” Vanity Fair noted. Among the shows under her leadership are Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Mr. Robot, and the Caitlyn Jenner reality show I Am Cait.

Heading up this year’s “New Establishment” list is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, wresting top honors from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who fell to the number two spot. They are joined by the likes of media mogul Rupert Murdoch (8), singer Beyoncé (10), and GMC CEO Mary Barra (52). Less than a quarter of those on the list are women.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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