Herbert A. Granath, FCRH ’54, GSAS ’55
CHAirman Emeritus, ESPN, Inc.
When he was majoring in physics at Fordham in the early 1950s, Herb Granath needed a part-time job. He saw an ad on a bulletin board for a job as an NBC page.
“I had no idea what that was," said Granath, chairman emeritus of ESPN and chairman of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. But he applied anyway, and so began his distinguished career as a pioneer in the television business.
Granath soon jumped from NBC to ABC, where he would lead the network into the uncharted waters of cable television. When ABC acquired ESPN in 1984, Granath, an avid sports fan, chaired the network, which today is ABC/Disney’s single largest profit center. He also began to see cable as an opportunity for niche programming.
“One of the areas that was not being served well was the performing arts,” he said. So he started the cable network that would eventually become A&E, offering opera from La Scala in Milan and ballet from Paris. “It was gorgeous stuff,” Granath said. “We were the darlings of the critics.”
A&E proved so successful that Granath started the History Channel. And when small networks in Europe began blossoming in a largely state-run field, he saw an opportunity to partner with the independent producers. He also helped ABC branch into theater, managing its investments in partnership with the Shubert Organization.
Jumping into so many new fields earned Granath a reputation.
“Somebody,” he said, “I don't remember who, dubbed me a corporate entrepreneur.”
The title gets to the heart of what makes Granath tick.
“One of the reasons I enjoyed physics was looking into the essence of things,” he said, adding that a course in logic was among the most influential he ever took. “It is amazing to me in American business how little a role logic plays. It has been a hallmark of the way I approach business.”
Over the course of his career, Granath has earned a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award and two Tony Awards. He also is a trustee emeritus of Fordham and a past president of the Veterans Bedside Network. With colleagues and his wife, Ann Flood, a stage and television actress, he has entertained patients in Veterans Administration hospitals, helping them produce and perform their own programs.
Granath and Flood have four children and 11 grandchildren, whose accomplishments Granath gushes over. One of his sons, he said, is in the mobile communications field. “He’s always on the cutting edge.”