PETER GUBER currently serves as chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group. Prior to Mandalay, he was chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. He has produced or executive produced (personally or through his companies) films that have garnered five Best Picture Academy Award nominations (winning for Rain Man) and box office hits that include The Color Purple, Midnight Express, Batman, Flashdance, and The Kids Are All Right. Peter is also co-owner and co–executive chairman of the 2015 and 2017 NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors, an owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and an owner and executive chairman of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC). Peter is a noted author whose works include Shootout: Surviving Fame and (Mis)Fortune in Hollywood and his most recent book, Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, which was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?
Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
When I was a young executive at Columbia Pictures in the ’70s, the company was ferociously trying to stop the onslaught of the video cassette industry, believing that the motion picture incumbency as producers and distributors of filmed content to movie theaters was threatened by this new challenge. I argued that this was a new way to reach audiences who could now time-shift content to their schedule and would only be a value-add to our business and to our audience. The executives had a narrow view of their offering. When they finally succumbed to seeing its value, they began to see it not as a time bomb but a treasure.
Later, all of the studios jumped at the proposition of a windfall when the folks who challenged their dominance offered to acquire their entire old libraries at the end of their theatrical and TV run for their exclusive distribution in packaged media. I argued vociferously not to take the money or to let them build a distribution system of great value off of our back, but rather to leverage our content to be in this new business. They went for the gold and gave up an enterprise that turned out to be the golden goose.
I never forgot that my failure was not convincing them that short-term thinking is not good in a marathon. Ironically, over two decades later as the CEO of Sony (who had acquired Columbia Pictures) I bought back the library and all distribution rights at an expensive ransom. I felt that controlling the content and the right to distribute it was critical to the vitality of our brand and enterprise.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
I would need three billboards:
“Don’t let the weight of fear weigh down the joy of curiosity.” Fear is really false evidence appearing real.
“The great majority of that which gives you angst never happens, so you must evict it.” Don’t let it live rent-free in your brain.
“Attitude puts aptitude on steroids.” Attitude is the soft stuff, but when the chips are down, as they so often are, it’s the soft stuff that often counts.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
The seminal change in the business from then to now is that a young person should view the career pyramid differently rather than traditionally. Put the point at the bottom where you are now (at the start of your career) and conceive your future as an expanding opportunity horizon where you can move laterally across the spectrum in search of an ever-widening set of career opportunities. Reinvent yourself regularly. See your world as an ever-increasing set of realities and seize the day.