SBJ/March 11-17, 2013/Champions

Assessing the icons

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Harvey Schiller is one of the few executives to work for both George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner, two icons of American business. Schiller tells stories about them often.

“Ted [Turner] and George [Steinbrenner] are very, very different people, but they’re both very competitive. They were much deeper individuals than most people realized in terms of their intellect.

“I’d say that they were both easy to work for. I had a closer friendship with Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner was my friend. Ted was my boss.

“Ted was always beyond where he was. He was always taking it to the next level. George was more studied in tradition. He valued things in a more traditional way. Ted was trying to break the boundaries of things.

“George was the most perceptive. He could look at a team and tell what was wrong with the team. Remember that famous story where he got all over Jeter? Jeter was partying. They made the commercial later. If you look at that, that was the beginning of a championship season. People said George used that as a motivational piece.

“The challenge with Ted was he had this brilliant mind about media. He kept pushing the envelope in different ways. It used to be he made TBS start at 5 minutes past the hour and 35 minutes past the hour. You’d have people study it and study it and go to meetings and try and convince him to change it. He’d go, ‘I’m not changing it,’ even though they had spent months getting all the research on how to do that. You know because it was what he wanted.

“From Ted, I learned vision.

“From George, I learned: Don’t try anything. Play it straight.”

— Harvey Schiller’s words, edited by Tripp Mickle

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