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Henry W. McGee

Broadcast executive Henry W. McGee was born on January 22, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois to Henry McGee Jr. and Catherine Williams. At the age of sixteen, McGee moved with his father to Los Angeles, California, and attended Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades, California until his junior year when he received early admission to Harvard University. McGee earned his B.A. degree in social studies magna cum laude in 1974. Later he received his M.B.A. degree from Harvard Business School in 1979.

McGee worked as a writer for Newsweek from 1974 to 1977 in New York and Washington D.C. After he obtained his M.B.A. degree, he was hired as a manager of film acquisition for Home Box Office (HBO), which was then a new venture at Time, Inc. McGee went on to serve as director of program acquisition for Time-Life Films from 1980 to 1981, director of Cinemax Program Planning and HBO Family Programming from 1981 to 1983, director of HBO Enterprises from 1983 to 1985, vice president of home video from 1985 to 1988, and senior vice president of programming for HBO Video from 1988 to 1995. In March of 1995, McGee was promoted to president of HBO Home Entertainment. Under his leadership, HBO became the leading force in the TV-to-DVD industry and a pioneer in using the Internet for marketing and sales. After retiring from HBO in 2013, McGee joined the faculty of Harvard Business School as a senior lecturer.

In 2004, McGee was elected to the board of AmerisourceBergen, the global pharmaceutical services company, and in 2017 was named chairman of the company’s Governance and Nominating Committee. In 2015, he joined the board of TEGNA, Inc., a broadcast and digital media company that owns the largest number of affiliates of the NBC television network. McGee also served on several nonprofit boards, including as director of the Black Filmmaker Foundation board since 1985, and the Pew Research Center board since 2014. He also served as director and president of the Film Society of Lincoln Center board, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation board. He served as a director of the boards of the Save the Children Fund, the Time Warner Foundation, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Sundance Institute. Additionally, McGee served on the advisory board of Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

McGee was inducted into Variety’s Home Entertainment Hall of Fame, and the National Association of Minorities in Communication Hall of Fame. He also received the Professional Achievement Award from the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association, and was named by Black Enterprise as one of the “50 Most Powerful African Americans in the Entertainment Business.” In 2018 the National Association of Corporate Directors named McGee one of the 100 most influential people in the boardroom community.

McGee and his wife, Celia, have one daughter, Honor.

Henry W. McGee was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 22, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.025

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/22/2016

Last Name

McGee

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Wadsworth

Schools

Washington Dual Language Academy

Alain L Locke Elementary School

Horace Mann School

Palisades Charter High School

Harvard University

Harvard Business School

Tolleston Middle School

First Name

Henry

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MCG08

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Paris, France

Favorite Quote

If You Don't Know Where You Are Going Any Road Will Get You There.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/22/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grilled Chicken

Short Description

Broadcast executive Henry W. McGee (1953 - ) worked at HBO Home Entertainment for over thirty-five years, where he served as president from 1995 to 2014. He then became a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

Employment

Harvard Business School

HBO Home Entertainment

HBO Video

HBO

HBO Enterprises

Cinemax Program Planning and HBO Family Programming

Time-Life Films

Newsweek

GE Asset Management

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Henry W. McGee's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Henry W. McGee lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Henry W. McGee describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Henry W. McGee talks about his mother's light complexion

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Henry W. McGee describes his paternal grandfather's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Henry W. McGee describes his paternal grandfather's career at the post office

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Henry W. McGee describes his paternal family's emphasis on education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Henry W. McGee describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Henry W. McGee describes his paternal grandfather's civil rights work

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Henry W. McGee describes his father's work for the Legal Services Program

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Henry W. McGee remembers his parents' divorce, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Henry W. McGee describes his father's career in higher education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Henry W. McGee remembers moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Henry W. McGee describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Henry W. McGee remembers his parents' divorce, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Henry W. McGee remembers living with his maternal family in Maywood, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Henry W. McGee remembers the community of Maywood, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Henry W. McGee remembers moving to Gary, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Henry W. McGee describes his neighborhood in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Henry W. McGee remembers school desegregation in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Henry W. McGee remembers attending a summer program at the Mount Hermon School for Boys in Northfield, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Henry W. McGee recalls his early admission to Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Henry W. McGee remembers his aspiration to become a journalist

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Henry W. McGee recalls his summer internships at Newsweek magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Henry W. McGee remembers the black student community at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Henry W. McGee recalls his parents' reaction to his admission to Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Henry W. McGee remembers joining the staff of Newsweek magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Henry W. McGee remembers working for Newsweek in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Henry W. McGee recalls his decision to attend Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Henry W. McGee recalls being offered a position at Time Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Henry W. McGee recalls his decision to work at Home Box Office

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Henry W. McGee describes the original business model of Home Box Office

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Henry W. McGee describes his role at Home Box Office, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Henry W. McGee describes his role at Home Box Office, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Henry W. McGee talks about the early home movie industry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Henry W. McGee recalls the impact of DVDs on the home entertainment industry

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Henry W. McGee remembers the introduction of original programming on Home Box Office

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Henry W. McGee talks about Home Box Office's original series

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Henry W. McGee describes Home Box Office's corporate history

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Henry W. McGee remembers his presidency of Home Box Office

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Henry W. McGee describes Home Box Office's international expansion

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Henry W. McGee remembers designing a business ethics curriculum

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Henry W. McGee remembers becoming a full time instructor at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Henry W. McGee reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Henry W. McGee shares his advice to aspiring film industry professionals

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Henry W. McGee reflects upon his life and organizational activities

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Henry W. McGee narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$3

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Henry W. McGee describes his role at Home Box Office, pt. 1
Henry W. McGee remembers his aspiration to become a journalist
Transcript
As one of these nine M.B.A.'s who comes in to share your wisdom, what are you all doing? What, what's happening (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well, different, different things. Well so, so again this was the advantage, I joined HBO [Home Box Office] when it had fewer than 3 million subscribers. It was a single network that wasn't on twenty-four hours a day. Our--the technology at the time was so crude that our affiliates in Hawaii and Puerto Rico couldn't receive the satellite signal. And we used to have to package up the movies on large cassettes, ship them to them, and they originate HBO locally. And as I said fast, original programming really wasn't on the, the map. Flash forward to today, HBO is a global network with well over a hundred million subscribers. The majority of which by the way are outside the U.S., and is as evidenced by Sunday's Emmy Awards is the most important force in originally scripted programming in the telv- in, in the television industry. So all that hap- all that was to come, but when I showed up, it was all about movies. They had all these M.B.A.'s and they sort of sorted them out into different, different jobs. And because I had been a, a writer, they felt that I could sort of talk, talk with the crazies if you will, out in, in Hollywood. And because I had the, the M.B.A. I could presumably negotiate with them, so I was given a job for which I was wholly unqualified. Which was negotiating the rights to independently produced films and foreign language films for exhibition on this service that wasn't even on twenty-four hours, twenty-four hours a day. Show, again, shows you how old, long ago HBO even no longer shows foreign language films on its main show, it's got other, you know. So this was an unbelievable opportunity for me.$$And you're about how old now?$$I was probably twenty-seven or so. Time Inc. is a very wealthy company, everything always had to be done top drawer. So at twenty-seven I was essentially given a credit card and unlimited amount of first class tickets. And told that I had to stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel [Beverly Hills, California] and correctly represent the company. And buy as many independent and foreign language films as, as I could. So that was also at the beginning of the birth of the American independent film business. So to have that sort of checkbook and power--yeah pay television was a very important sort of financing stream--put me at the beginning of that movement.$When you were applying to Harvard [Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts], did you have a sense of what you wanted to do with your life, what work you wanted to pursue?$$(Pause) No, I suspect that in my early days, because my father [Henry W. McGee, Jr.] was a gr- was a great role model for me, that I would probably--and this would of course made my grandparents [Attye Belle Truesdale McGee and Henry W. McGee, Sr.] happy--that I would become a, a lawyer. And sort of keep in the family tradition of, of, of public service in one way or another. What evolved over those years as a freshman in college, because I al- had always been interested in writing. And I was vaguely aware of my father's foray and brief foray into journalism; I joined the student daily, The Harvard, The Harvard Crimson. And in that group I dev- quickly developed my some of my closest friends even to this, this day, met my wife [Celia Betsky McGee] on the paper. In that the, the involvement in The Harvard Crimson was a, so central part of my college experience and shaped my decision early in the, early on there to become a journalist. Now there was some extern- couple of external factors there, one is in the early--we're just coming off the era of the Pentagon Papers. Early Watergate--well sort of in the middle of Watergate report, right before it. And being a journalist was, if you wanna do public service, that was one of the highest callings you could have. My father who regrettably had his journal- journalistic ambitions thwarted, was quite encouraging.