Bob Pittman, the wunderkind who ushered America, and ultimately the world,
into the music video era of MTV.
Mr. Pittman, the executive most universally credited with the creation of
MTV: Music Televsion, as well as sister channels Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite
and VH-1: Video Hits One, was one of the most high-profile media
executives of the mid-1980s.
Today, he's working behind the scenes at some fairly substantial, but
somewhat less glitzy, media enterprises.
Indeed, a search of Advertising Age's electronic database for the past
year produced only three citations for the name Pittman; two were for his
wife, mountain climber Sandy Hill Pittman. The one reference to Mr.
Pittman was as one of the "50 Who Made a Difference" in Ad Age's special
report on "50 Years of TV Advertising."
Mr. Pittman once again is trying to make a difference, this time via
entertainment theme parks. As president-CEO of Time Warner Enterprises,
Mr. Pittman engineered the acquisition of seven Six Flags parks and has
transformed them into the only potentially nationally branded rival to
Walt Disney Co.'s venues.
Part of Mr. Pittman's strategy was an aggressive ad campaign-including
spots featuring Mr. Pittman-that for the first time promoted the seven
parks as a single brand.
Simultaneously, Mr. Pittman negotiated major promotional partnerships
with companies like McDonald's Corp., MasterCard International and General
Mills, and began integrating the parks with some of parent Time Warner's
best known characters and brands.
The strategy transformed Six Flags from a moribund string of second-tier
theme parks into a valuable Time Warner asset.
So it came as some surprise last week when Mr. Pittman was reported to be
negotiating the sale of half of Time Warner's stake in Six Flags, possibly
to a leveraged buyout group in which Mr. Pittman might also be an equity
player. Mr. Pittman wouldn't be interviewed, but Time Warner executives
said the sale is one of many non-core assets the company is looking to
liquidate to raise cash and pay down debts that have been making investors
"He's really looking for his next MTV," said an executive close to Mr.
Pittman. "MTV is a tough act to follow, but so far Bob hasn't found it.
Maybe he thinks he's the next Mike Eisner."
Ten years ago, you couldn't open a magazine without finding a profile on
Bob Pittman, the wunderkind who ushered Ameri