A Young Master of Acquisitions

Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

From a quick look at Brandon Burgess’ stats, it might be tough to believe that much of what he has accomplished professionally took place by the time he was 35.
Indeed, the list is impressive: He has orchestrated more than $4.5 billion in acquisitions for NBC in the past couple of years, helped push the network headlong into the fast-growing business of Spanish-language broadcasting, and was instrumental in NBC’s snagging of its first entertainment cable channel.
But don’t expect Mr. Burgess to be the sort of wunderkind who stops and marvels at the speed with which he has achieved success. Instead, NBC’s executive VP of business development opts for a more modest approach when it comes to describing how far he has risen in such a short time.
He talks about the importance of being disciplined and of being able to table a transaction when it’s clear it won’t work. “I was willing to walk away from any transaction, from almost any deal that we’ve done,” he said.
Mr. Burgess also speaks of the importance of having mentors, such as his boss Randy Falco, group president of the NBC Television Network, and NBC Chairman and CEO Bob Wright, whose different styles complement each other and help Mr. Burgess take in the big picture. He describes Mr. Wright as taking a visionary approach, while Mr. Falco’s approach is to foster ideas through collaboration.
“The key is having people who are seasoned, who know deal-making, involved,” Mr. Burgess said.
Knowing such people has helped Mr. Burgess. Almost as soon as he was handed the business development title in January 2002, Mr. Burgess, who had previously been chief financial officer of the network, found himself engineering NBC’s $2.7 billion acquisition of Telemundo. The deal raised the number of owned-and-operated stations to 29 from 13 and created duopolies in six of the top 20 television markets. Earlier this year he launched a $1.5 billion financial restructuring that would enable NBC to acquire cable channel Bravo from Cablevision Systems’ Rainbow Media Holdings unit. He is also intimately involved with NBC’s bid for Vivendi Universal’s U.S. entertainment assets.
Although that’s a series of tall orders for any executive, let alone a young one, Mr. Burgess credits NBC parent General Electric’s corporate culture for testing both the soundness of his business initiatives and his resolve for pursuing them.
“GE definitely gives people room to run,” he said. But he added that the “machinations” involved in getting approvals as well as the attendant paperwork, which he described as “substantial,” ensure any idea he comes up with is fully vetted before a single check is written.
And Mr. Burgess has lots of ideas. While getting into distribution is unlikely, Mr. Burgess sees many opportunities to build NBC’s content. Plus, he is keen on embracing technology and said he wants to use the network’s Olympics coverage as a launching pad to introduce new ways to deliver content.
“Analog TV is a powerful legacy, but technology will ultimately empower the consumer to get what they want,” he said.
Name: Roy Brandon Burgess
Title: Executive VP, NBC Business Development
Date of Birth: Dec. 3, 1967
Place of Birth: Born in the United States, but raised in Germany
Education: European Business School in Germany; MBA from the Wharton School
Who Knew? Mr. Burgess tried out for the Olympics as an archer during his younger years.