Viacom’s Freston moves on…to Oprah and Bono
Want to read a story about failure and redemption? About sitting at the top of the business world and losing it all suddenly? About discovering that success wasn’t so sweet and finding a better calling?
Check out my hot-off-the-presses profile of Tom Freston. He’s the guy who built MTV and rose to be CEO of Viacom , only to be dumped by Sumner Redstone, Viacom’s owner, on Labor Day 2006. Freston talks for the first time about the firing and his remarkable adventures since. Trotting the globe – Afghanistan, Burma, Rwanda and 30 other countries where your typical ex-CEO wouldn’t tread – he spent two years dodging the press and plenty of powerful people who wanted him to work with them. Hand it to Oprah Winfrey. After a two-year chase, she persuaded him to help her build her new TV network, OWN. Bono also pursued Freston relentlessly. Freston is now helping the U2 frontman on his mission to reduce global poverty and AIDS.
I too chased Freston. It took nearly a year before he agreed to sit down and tell his story to Fortune exclusively. His story, I think, is very much of the zeitgeist – given that lots of fallen bigwigs are now being forced to rethink both career and life purpose. So, in “The Most Wanted Man on the Planet.” , you learn about the man who walked away with $60 million in severance and actually knew what to do with the money. You might learn a few career lessons too. Stay tuned to Postcards and Fortune.com for more on Freston-video interviews, inside scoop on Oprah and OWN, his Afghanistan adventures, and his fight for public funding of special education that he took all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.