Late last month he announced his retirement, effective January 1, 2011, from a long and distinguished career selling advertising time after 20+ years running the FOX Network sales effort.
I worked for Jon in the early days of FOX. Jamie Kellner hired him from NBC, who thought enough of Jon that they offered him the post as Network President in a bid to keep him. Jon was bright enough, at the time, to recognize what he liked to do and how effective he could be in the sales role and decided instead to join and lead our small team of party crashers in the late 80’s.
Our sales team, from outside appearances, was pretty underwhelming. We had stars as leaders in Dave Cassaro, who was running Eastern Sales and had established himself at CBS….and Jean Rossi who was a very successful buyer for many years at the old Young & Rubicam. But the rest of us were kids with little to no sales experience and small reputations in a very clubby world. Hank Close had come from CBS sales planning and Nielsen. John Cochran had worked with Jean at Y&R. I was a minor league sales guy at CBS…called a Generalist who focused for the most part on small agencies outside of the NY area. Debbie Myers ran our West Coast effort after years as a buyer at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample. Neil Mulcahy handled our inventory after a traffic stint at CBS. Essentially a bunch of kids who were enthralled at the idea of challenging the established networks while building their own profiles….and having a ton of fun while doing it.
When Jon came over, most of us were a little intimidated if not fearful. Debbie and Jean knew Jon from their buying days but the rest of us had never met him. A big network honcho was coming in and our efforts were going to be looked at with a clear, new and more professional set of eyes and experience. We were nervous.
On Jon’s second or third day with us, he called a meeting. “I have been looking at the deals you guys have done….their structure, the pricing you’ve attained and the mix of sponsors” he said. “I want you to know that I am incredibly impressed by what I have seen. Nobody at NBC, and I will bet at the other networks either, would have ever guessed that you guys would have been able to accomplish all this in so short a time. ”
With that simple statement Jon had us all in his camp….and he got us a boost of credibilty from our customers that made our jobs instantly easier. He let us know, through his actions, that he was always there for us if we ever needed him but we were also free to learn on our own, and make mistakes, as we went. I never saw him lose his temper, he was incredibly supportive and I have no doubt he smoothed many a wrinkle behind the scenes that we never knew existed.
Jon’s reputation throughout the industry, as a fair negotiator who truly looked out for his clients’ needs while at the same time maximizing the revenues for his company, has stood by him throughout his career.
Last month, Jon was selected by Broadcasting & Cable magazine to join their Hall of Fame roster. Amazingly, Jon is the first sales executive to be so honored and in typical Nesvig understated fashion, his acceptance speech deflected the attention from him to “the many talented sales folks in the room tonight who have helped make a huge difference in our changing business”. And in typical straight shooting Nesvig style, he added “and I hope that the folks at the Hall of Fame give them some future consideration.”
Like so many others, I feel fortunate to have learned from him….both at FOX and afterwards. Jon has been a trusted and valued mentor as I chased dreams outside of network sales and I can’t thank him enough for that. Enjoy what’s to come Jon.
THE LAST BITE:
Seriously, do you know ANYONE who would eat a Dunkin Donut Sausage Pancake Bite?
- Media Decoder: Fox Ad Sales Chief to Retire (mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com)