Company: David Salzman Enterprises
Offices: Hollywood, CA
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Activity: Serial entrepreneur in television production and distribution, event production (sports, arts) and journalism.
Attended: Wayne State University
Degree: B.S., M.F.A., Performing and Communication Arts (radio and television), 1969
“I’ve had a very interesting life, outside of just my career, and it all traces back to Wayne State.”
David Salzman is a Hollywood executive and producer, and a serial entrepreneur in a number of markets that include television news and entertainment, magazines, sports, and musical events. He has founded or co-founded a number of companies, including Lorimar Telepictures, the number-one television production studio for more than six years under David’s leadership, producing programs that included Dallas, Full House, People’s Court, Knots Landing, ALF, and Perfect Strangers. Lorimar was sold to Time Warner in 1989.
David also co-founded Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment with Quincy Jones, the company that produced such well-known shows as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as productions such as Emmy-winning Their Eyes Were Watching God. During his career, David has produced or directed more than 15,000 hours of television, including 14 seasons of Mad TV. David has also produced several presidential inaugural ceremonies and Academy Awards shows.
In the field of sports, David co-founded the AMGEN Tour of California, America’s largest professional cycling event, and in 2006 he purchased The Franklin Mint with several other investors.
David acknowledges that he has been very lucky in his career, but notes that he also has the ability to recognize the lucky break and do something about it. He attributes part of his luck to attending Wayne State University and being in Detroit during the 1960s, a pivotal era in Michigan’s largest city.
David came from humble means in Brooklyn and thought he would grow up to be an athlete. In the work force since he was 12 years old, David earned a degree from Brooklyn College and was accepted into the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Advice from a number of journalists who stressed the declining nature of the business, and an all-night poker game with several Wayne State University professors at a conference, convinced him to study television at WSU. He moved to Detroit, earned a master of fine arts degree, launched his career in entertainment, and developed a love for the university and city, to which he returns several times a year.
“Wayne State is two of the four chambers of the heart of Detroit—without Wayne State, it would be devastating to the city. It is arguably one of the most important institutions in the country right now.”
Wayne State and Detroit provided David with a number of opportunities to make things happen. He exposed students to television work in the university’s studios. With the university and support from the Ford Motor Co. and the Ford Foundation, David launched a live newspaper program on television overnight—The Television City Room, which featured the top Detroit Free Press editors and reporters. The show lasted the eight months of the 1967 newspaper strike and was duplicated in San Francisco, where it lasted many years. Based on a tip shared by a police officer who was a basketball league friend, David was part of a team that broke the Pulitzer prize-winning Detroit Free Press story on the Detroit riots.
Two defining aspects of David’s approach to work are his willingness to learn from failure and to cultivate a vast network of people, an extension of his natural inclination to get to know people.
He has served on a number of boards, but is most proud of the work of the Wayne State University Foundation Board. He is impressed with the impact Wayne State is having on students, most of whom are beating the odds to earn a higher education degree. The difference that Wayne State is making in the lives of individuals and the city, from David’s perspective, makes it one of the most important institutions in the country, and critical to Detroit.
Photo credit: Robert Benson