Discovery Founder John Hendricks Will Retire In May

This is a milestone for the company, and the cable industry. John Hendricks is one of the business’ most influential programming pioneers, and possibly the most authentic and humble media mogul I ever met. He will retire both as chairman of the Discovery board and from the board itself after the annual meeting May 16. “Few words can appropriately convey what kind of person John is, or what he has meant to this company and the cable television industry overall,” CEO David Zaslav says. “He is a true visionary, a man of enormous integrity and one of the world’s great entrepreneurs.” A native of West Virginia but raised in Alabama, Hendricks founded Discovery in 1985 — inspired by his interest in documentaries, and a desire to create a company in the young but promising cable industry. It was a novel, and risky, venture but succeeded with timely support from CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, banker Herb Allen, and cable exec John Malone. Hendricks ran the non-fiction cable channel and company as CEO until 2004.  In the 1990s, a time when cable consisted of analog signals, he was one of the first to promote niche-oriented digital networks. In 2002, he made Discovery HD Theater the first 24/7 HD channel on basic cable. In a letter to the board today he says that he plans to “spend the next few years traveling the planet and discovering the questions and mysteries that intrigue us all.” He also will focus on a new enterprise: Curiosity Project, which will sponsor Curiosity Retreats and the online Curiosity Club. The goal is “to nurture our natural human curiosity in a very substantial way. I am committed to building a lifelong learning academy operating within the private sector that offers deep dives into our curious questions about science, technology, civilization, and the human spirit.”

Here’s the complete farewell letter: (more…)

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