Brandon Tartikoff Honored at NATPE Legacy Award Ceremony

9:10 PM PST 01/28/2014 by Alex Ben Block
Jon Feltheimer

Jon Feltheimer, Emilio Azcarraga Jean, James L. Brooks and Lauren Zalaznick accepted the awards in the name and spirit of the late NBC executive.

MIAMI BEACH – In accepting the NATPE Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award on Tuesday evening, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer called the man whose name graces the honor "a visionary."

Feltheimer said he looked up to Tartikoff not only because of his accomplishments when he ran NBC, but also for his daring attitude. "He was willing to take chances on failure," he said, adding that because of that, he was able to "launch some great shows."

Also being honored alongside Feltheimer at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, Fla.: Emilio Azcarraga Jean, president/CEO of Televisa S.A.B. and chairman of Grupo Televisa S.A.B.; former NBC Universal executive Lauren Zalaznick; and writer, producer and director James. L. Brooks, creator of The Simpsons, the longest-running show on television.

Nancy O’Dell of Entertainment Tonight hosted the awards, which included an appearance by Tartikoff’s widow, Lily, who praised NATPE for keeping the memory of her husband alive. NATPE president/CEO Rod Perth welcomed the sold-out crowd of TV executives and others.

Feltheimer’s award was presented to him by his longtime friend Harry Sloan, who in past years was his lawyer and colleague when they were among the founders of New World Entertainment. Sloan is now CEO of Silver Eagle Acquisitions.

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Sloan recalled that "Felt," as his friends call him, first came to Hollywood to pursue his ambitions as a musician. Instead he became an executive and at New World ran the TV department, building it in three years from a standing start into the third-largest supplier of TV shows to the networks.

After New World was sold, Feltheimer went on to a series of high-level executive jobs at Sony Pictures Entertainment and elsewhere before taking over Lionsgate, which now has 30 shows currently airing on 20 different broadcast and cable networks. He added that in the 150-year history of Hollywood, no one else has ever taken an independent and created a major studio worth $5 billion today.

Among those who praised Feltheimer in a prepared video were Tyler Perry, NBC's Ted Harbert, Disney's Robert Iger and performers Kelsey Grammer, George Lopez, Jennifer Lawrence and Wendy Williams.

Feltheimer said if he had listened to the people who said "no" to most of the TV shows he had helped create, including Mad Men, they would never have been made.

Brooks, who besides The Simpsons over the years was responsible for such shows as Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi and Lou Grant, as well as the movies Broadcast News and Terms Of Endearment, was supposed to be presented his award by Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal got sick so Gary Newman, co-chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television, did the honors.

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Brooks recalled how Grant Tinker, who fought for the great shows that NBC put on like Mary Tyler Moore and Taxi, even when other executives didn't want them to be on the air, and praised Barry Diller for putting The Simpsons on the air "when the network was flirting with bankruptcy."

He also thanked Newman and his partner Dana Walden, who he said "not only had our backs," but also is "one of the few people on earth who didn’t ask when The Simpsons is going to end."

The award for Azcarraga Jean was presented by Eugenio Derbez, who is known in America for his movie Instructions Not Included, now the highest-grossing Spanish language movie ever released in the U.S.

Derbez described Azcarraga Jean as "another amazingly creative decision-maker who truly embodies the spirit of Brandon Tartikoff."

In his acceptance, Azcarraga Jean recalled it took more than nine years for Dergez to get that movie made, which his company financed and distributed, and also thanked the 25,000 employees of Televisa for "believing all my dreams and following me around the world to produce the best entertainment we can."

Andy Cohen presented the award to Zalaznick, paying tribute to her for seeing the potential in him to move from being an executive programmer in her company to putting him on the air. "The words 'visionary' and 'out of the box' are thrown around a lot in our business," he said, "but the words applied to Brandon Tartikoff and it definitely applies to my friend Lauren Zalaznick."

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In her witty acceptance remarks, Zalaznick made reference to the fact she recently left her executive job at NBC Universal and has started her own company. "I actually have a problem right now. A legacy award? Really? Shouldn't I get that when I’m really old and at least retired? Add to that my problem is that I’m receiving this legacy award … days after I left my big fat day job. Coincidence? Or is this your way of telling me my best days are behind me?"

She also made a pointed remark about her former employer in paying tribute to great TV storytellers, "the kind who work at our great companies and not the kind in the valley [where NBC Universal is located]."

Zalaznick said Brandon Tartikoff got the need for great storytellers more than anyone: "His respect for storytelling, his taste, his expertise" were all part of his real legacy as well as "the way he chose to break the status quo. That is what we are all here celebrating tonight."

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