Former longtime CBS chief communications executive, novelist and humorist Gil Schwartz passed away Saturday morning at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. at the age of 68. His passing was unexpected, but he died of natural causes.
Schwartz retired as Senior EVP and Chief Communications Officer of CBS Corporation, in November 2018 following nearly 40 years at CBS, Viacom and Westinghouse Broadcasting. He oversaw the public relations, media relations, and also the corporate and internal communications functions during CBS’ rise to become America’s most-watched network.
Highly regarded by colleagues and journalists, Schwartz was a top advisor to CBS’ senior executives and a beloved mentor to the many communications executives who worked with him. He was also a gifted showman who became famous for his singing, guitar playing and comedic riffs during CBS’ annual affiliate meetings. Schwartz’s colorful and endearing personality was also on full display every December at CBS’ annual holiday press party, a can’t-miss fete that featured appearances by the company’s biggest stars and top executives as well as the serving of Gil’s signature pigs in a blanket.
Schwartz joined CBS as SVP, Communications in 1996, following 14 years with Westinghouse Broadcasting (Group W), where he oversaw communications for that company prior to its merger with CBS.
In addition to his senior executive role in corporate America, Schwartz secretly (at first) moonlighted for many years as a columnist and author, using Stanley Bing as his pen name. Bing’s quick-witted commentary first appeared in the pages of Esquire. Stanley then took his talents to Fortune, where he mused in a back-page column for more than 20 years. In the early 1990s, Bing’s true identity became the most poorly held secret in the media business. Despite having penned two books prior to the veil being lifted, including Crazy Bosses: Spotting Them, Serving Them, Surviving Them, Bing forged ahead and wrote a total of 13 business books with the blessing of Schwartz’s superiors.
Stanley Bing also authored three novels: You Look Nice Today, Lloyd – What Happened, and most recently Immortal Life: A Soon to Be True Story.
“For the better part of three decades, Gil Schwartz led CBS Communications with creative flare, craftsman-like expertise and an abundance of personality,” CBS said in a statement. “He was a counselor to senior management, a mentor to future PR executives and a popular presence in every hallway. His diverse and sophisticated repertoire ranged from artful media relations and gifted wordsmithing skills to an insightful and humorous view of the media world he loved. Gil will long be remembered by the many teams he led across entertainment, news, sports and the corporate world. Our deepest sympathies are with his wife Laura, his children, grandchildren and his entire family.”
Schwartz was born on May 20, 1951 in New York City to Bill and Ruth Schwartz. He began developing his communications skills at an early age when his parents encouraged him to articulate when speaking to his deaf brother, Michael. Gil grew up in New Rochelle before attending Brandeis University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in theater arts and English.
A man of many passions, Schwartz loved art and poetry and began his professional life as a poet, playwright and actor who honed his talents by doing everything from improvisational theater to Shakespeare’s As You Like It. He was one of the founders of The Next Move, an improv troupe in Boston. In addition to being an accomplished guitarist, Schwartz was an all-around musician who could play a tune on anything, from a clarinet to a ukulele to a piano. He was also an avid photographer with a particular penchant for birds, travel and food. He approached every hobby and side project with the same exuberance that was a hallmark of his professional life.
Following his 2018 retirement from CBS, Schwartz remained active and erudite as a writer, blogger and tweeter.
Schwartz ’s longtime friend, playwright Lloyd “Lucky” Gold, observed the title of Schwartz’s 1982 play, Ferocious Kisses, could be his epitaph; ferocious in his opinions, in his loyalties and his loves, Gil made every moment of his eventful life matter – to his wife, his children, his dog and everyone who was fortunate enough to call him a friend.
Schwartz is survived by his loving wife of 14 years, Laura Svienty; daughter Nina Pajak (Matt Pajak); son Will Schwartz (Jean Moylan); stepson Kyle Bender; stepdaughter Rachel Bender; granddaughter Vivien; grandson Sam; brother Michael Schwartz (Trisha Schwartz); and niece Brianna Schwartz.
In lieu of flowers, friends who wish to honor Schwartz ’s memory are encouraged to make donations to lafoodbank.org, foodbanknyc.org or sfmfoodbank.org. A memorial service will take place this fall.
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