Chris Albrecht, currently the president and CEO of premium cable programmer Starz, is undisputably one of the most talented TV programming executives of our time.
The industry was shocked in May, 2007, when he was arrested for choking his girlfriend in Las Vegas after they had attended a boxing match shown live on HBO. Soon thereafter he was left go by HBO. The person who made the call was Jeff Bewkes, now Time Warner’s CEO.
Now, for the first time, we learn Albrecht’s side of the story in a piece written by Amy Wallace in the November issue of GQ.
Says the article about the incident, "Police said he smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet, and slurred his speech. Albrecht soon sent an e-mail to HBO employees apologizing for his actions and saying he was taking a leave of absence to seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous. Then the Los Angeles Times reported that sixteen years earlier, he’d had an affair with one of his HBO employees that ended in a closed-door altercation; HBO paid the woman a hefty settlement. Within hours, Albrecht was fired."
The article adds in the current interview that Albrecht , "[A]pologizes, again, for causing embarrassment and pain to his family and his colleagues. But there is one thing he does not do: deny that he still enjoys his liquor. He hasn’t fallen off the wagon, he insists. Instead, he says, he didn’t need to get on it. Contrary to the assertions he made in 2007—that alcohol made him do it—Albrecht tells me, ‘After years of reflection and working with specialists, I have recognized that alcohol is not an issue in my life. What I really needed to get at the heart of was my complicated and often very diffcult love relationships with women.’ "
Later in the article Wallace writes, "Now that Albrecht is a CEO at a publicly traded company, I ask, doesn’t he understand that Bewkes—who was in line to replace Time Warner chairman and CEO Dick Parsons—had no choice but to fire him? Albrecht says he can argue it both ways. ‘Jeff could have stood up and said, ‘Hey, I was in charge then and I’m in charge now and that’s not what happened. Let’s wait and see what happens with the Vegas situation.’ You could certainly find that under the definition of leadership.’ (Bewkes declined to comment, other than to have an associate relay a message that he holds Albrecht in ‘the highest regard.’)"
Albrecht also says in the article, "Violence against anybody is wrong. I did a dumb thing in Vegas, it lasted three seconds, and the price I paid for it personally, professionally, and financially was enormous."
The article also talks at length about Albrecht the programmer, and about his new job at Starz.
The piece is a must-read over the weekend.