Dick Parsons, a brother who has rescued companies before, is now head of CBS
He’s worked with Obama and helped save the Apollo Theater and start the NMAAHC
Parsons, just named interim chairman of the board for CBS in the wake of the resignation of longtime chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, was once called Captain Emergency.
His name doesn’t ring a bell yet? Then you might remember Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, whose offensive racial remarks caused him to lose the NBA franchise. Before Steve Ballmer bought the team, Parsons was appointed the interim CEO.
The 70-year-old Parsons was one of the first black men to lead a Fortune 500 company in 2002, when he became president of Time Warner. He started his career as a lawyer, then became president of Dime Savings Bank of New York, all this without even having a college degree, having left the University of Hawaii seven credits short.
He dropped Dime and headed to Time Warner, where he became president and helped save one of the first megamergers in history when he helped orchestrate a $165 billion mashup with America Online in 2000. He became CEO in 2002. After leaving there, he joined Citigroup as chairman from 2009-12. He helped stabilize both companies after fragile situations.
Parsons was dubbed “Captain Emergency” in a Bloomberg Businessweek article in 2011 because of his ability to navigate the troubled waters of complex negotiations and soothe the contentious infighting that goes on in corporate offices and boardrooms. He appeared on Black Enterprise‘s Most Powerful African Americans in Business list several times.
He was also on President Barack Obama’s team in 2008-09, among the group of economists and business leaders who helped stabilize the economy after the Great Recession.
He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, with a love of jazz, and one of the places he helped revive was Minton’s Playhouse, the famous jazz club where greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Count Basie once played.
Parsons’ grandfather had been head groundskeeper at the John D. Rockefeller estate, and Parsons would later go on to work for Rockefeller’s grandson, Nelson, who became governor of New York and vice president of the United States. He also worked for President Gerald Ford while at the White House.
Although Parsons is touted as a titan of industry, he helped save the Apollo Theater when it was on shaky financial ground, chairing the board of the Apollo Theater Foundation. He also chaired the Jazz Foundation of America and was co-chairman of the advisory board of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
So, before Jay-Z, P. Diddy and Russell Simmons and even Oprah were running things, Parsons was holding it down.